Also available on our YouTube Channel HERE.
Following Jesus: Love Your Enemies
Following Jesus requires us to accept his invitation and to hear his teachings and ways. But not just to hear – to act. Many of the teachings of Jesus are uncomfortable and feel unnatural – He is calling us to live the Jesus life. Our text today does make us uncomfortable. Jesus demonstrated, ultimately at the cross, the principle that found a center place in his life and ministry.
It is the most unnatural thing in the world to love someone who has hurt you – someone who is an enemy in some respect – but that is what Jesus calls us to in our text. Today’s passage is one that demonstrates this.
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.Luke 6:27-35
Among the teachings of Jesus, I can hardly think of one that is more complex or difficult than loving our enemies. We live in such a polarized time. It’s a time when we all have a megaphone shaped like a keyboard. We live in a violent time that is shaken by racism, injustice, crime, and brutality. We normally treat an enemy the way we were treated. Wiersbe: Hatred only breeds more hatred, “for man’ anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20). This cannot be done in our own strength, but it can be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. WW
The ability to have this capability begins with recognizing the source of this kind of love.
BEGIN WITH THE FIRST LOVE
Love is the greatest need in the world. No one expresses the love we most need more than Jesus Christ.
John 15:12-14 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
Henri Nouwen calls the ‘first love’. “The first love says, ‘I loved you before you could love anyone or before you could receive love from anyone. I have accepted you. You are accepted. You are loved no matter what mother, father, brother, sister, school, church, society does. You are born out of my love.”
Experiencing First Love Frees us to Love One Another
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Experiencing First Love Comes From Being Forgiven
Luke 7:36-48 a woman anoints the feet of Jesus and wipes them with her hair. Jesus says she must have been forgiven much because she loves so much. She understood how much she is loved, and this love set her free to love Jesus with all her heart.
Experiencing First Love is in Contrast to Worldly Love
Worldly love is a transaction. If we give something, we expect something in return. This is where conflicts and hostility come from. This creates anger, jealousy, resentment and revenge.
DEVELOPING THE ABILITY TO LOVE OUR ENEMIES
Follow Jesus the Supreme Example.
If not following Jesus, then it will be impossible. If we are following Jesus, we become windows of love of God – Jesus teaches us how to live it out. “We broken, limited persons are windows on the unlimited, unconditional, unbroken, perfect love of God.” HN
Enable Love with Prayer
“We enact this kind of love by prayer. We pray so we can walk around this world and not be so needy, not be wounding others, and not be giving so we can get something in return. We pray to be free….Following Jesus means to live a life in which we start loving one another with God’s original love and not with the needy and wounded love that harms others.” HN Pray for people that you do not like. You really have to work at it. Seek God’s help to rise above our emotions and hurts.
Speak Words of Forgiveness
Remember what he said on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Lk 23:34). Stephen – the first Christian martyr – in death asked God to forgive his enemies (Acts 7:60). Speaking words of forgiveness is where the love of enemies becomes visible.
Do concrete acts of forgiveness and service.
Do not wait until you feel better about things. Do not let emotions decide what you are going to do.
Conclusion: McKeever: When we do loving things for our enemies, 12 things happen:
-God is honored.
-Jesus is pleased.
-Holy Spirit is able to use our actions to accomplish His will.
-The devil is infuriated. You are not playing by the rules.
-The enemy–those who did the bad things to you–are puzzled.
-The critics of the church are silenced.
-The church itself is blessed.
-Christians going through hard times are inspired.
-Outsiders are drawn to Jesus.
-You yourself are blessed.
-Your anger goes away.
-And according to Luke 6:35, your reward in Heaven is great.
Nothing you and I will do in this life is more important than to show the love of Christ to people who get on our nerves, constantly harass us, persecute us for our faith, and make life miserable for us.
“We become a new person every time we forgive an enemy, because we let go of the angry person inside who was holding on to fear.” Nouwen
God will help us love this way, because He loves us this way.
Nouwen, Henri J. Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety. New York: Convergent, 2019.
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary New Testament, Volume 1: Matthew – Galatians. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 1989.