How do you love your enemy?
Jesus loved in all sorts of challenging circumstances, but none more difficult than Mount Calvary. As he hung on the cross, Jesus’ prayed for his enemies [Luke 23:34]. When praying for our enemies, it becomes easier to love them. Praying for our enemy opens our hearts and allows us to see our adversaries as God sees them; His beloved creation created in his image. Each human is put on this earth by God and is loved by God. When we recognize the inherent worth of all humanity and choose to love the unlovable, we ourselves are transformed to Christlikeness.
In his sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches those gathered [and us] how to live uprightly and LOVE in a supernatural way. He compels his followers to inhabit a righteousness of the heart that merely following the law could not produce in them* [or us]. He was teaching the world “a new thing.” And he did stop there. Not only did Jesus ask his followers to love and pray for their enemies, but he also instructed them to bless their enemies and do good to them.
The world often has limits with its love. But with God, there are no distinctions. No one is beyond His salvation; His love. Sending His son was a revelation of who God is. Jesus was God’s unimaginable gift to the world. And through His blameless, spotless Son’s death on the cross, God made Himself known. I love you this much, He said. [John 3:16] And despite our own enmity and “unlovability” factor—our human failings of selfishness, pride, greed, rebellion, etc., God still loved us enough to sacrifice His son for our unloveliness; our sins.
So much goodness and mercy exists for us to unpack in this passage. But what strikes me the most interesting is the tagline Jesus tucked into the beginning of verse 45, “that you [we] may be children of your [our] Father in Heaven.”
As humans, often we desire to return one unkind deed for another. But choosing to love in all the hard places is evidence of God in our lives. And when we act in such a way as to exhibit the extra-ordinary grace and unfathomable love of God through our loving words and deeds, we bear a strong family resemblance. We reflect the supernatural image of our Heavenly Father to a watching, wondering world.
“To be so full of God’s love, I no longer fathom speaking an unkind word or committing an unkind deed.” This is my quest… Join me?!
Through Christ’s death, God demonstrated just how unfathomable His love is for us. And if God can love us this much, so must we learn to love in all the hardest places He calls us to. We aren’t called to love the lovable. We are called to love those who participate in [or cause] our suffering; our enemies. Loving the unlovable is impossible in our own human strength. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit, can we learn to love an unlovable world as God does. God’s providential love for a world at enmity with him, demonstrates how we are to love our enemies. And we learn one challenging, difficult circumstance at a time.
God will call us many times in our lives to love and in some incredibly difficult places. Take some time to consider how you will choose to respond in life’s hardest places? What tools might you readily have available for the job?
Lord, we realize sometimes we’re given life’s most difficult circumstances in which we are to love. Help us to pray for our enemies in a way that is pleasing to you. Grant us extraordinary grace and unfathomable love, so that Your love is reflected in our words and actions. Thank you for loving us when we, ourselves, are unlovable. Help us to love as only You can love a broken, unlovable world—with the heart of a Creator.
* Holman Bible dictionary, p. 1464