Day 6 - Love Your Enemies

Day 6 - Love Your Enemies

Written By: Pat Hardin

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)
What does verse 44 mean when it says to “love your enemies?” Perhaps the first questions we ask ourselves should be, “Who is my enemy?” The first century Jews were taught to love their neighbors, but to hate their enemies according to the Law. Doesn’t that seem odd? The strict application of the Law of Moses dealt with revenge against a fellow Israelite, thus the command to love your neighbor as yourself. Sounds logical, right? Teachers of the Law began to misapply the teaching by inferring that the Law applied only to Jews, therefore the Gentiles and heathens were not to be treated the same way.

God intended His people to be a light to the nations as evidenced in Isaiah 42:6, in order to guide them to belief in the One, True God. The intent is still the same. Jesus shows us that the way we treat others has the potential to point others to Him, and ultimately to faith in the One, True God. Israel was to point people to God, to give evidence of his covenant with fallen mankind through the sacrifice of the Messiah, yet the religious leaders of the day had ignored the intent and usurped the call to righteousness.  How should we apply the truth of this message today in a world that desperately needs love?

We may consider identifying our enemies and then going out of our way to show them kindness. Some of us may have a difficult time thinking of a person who has wronged us or treated us shamefully enough to be considered an enemy, while others may need an extra sheet of paper to write down all of the names. What if we treated everyone with the love of Jesus? You know, the love that forgave you of your sins; the love that allowed the Son of God to die on a cross for you; or the love that will forgive the sins you have not yet committed…even as a Christian?
If I consider every person I meet as someone worthy of love, then it doesn’t matter how they treat me, does it? If they treat me poorly, I should consider it all joy to be treated like Jesus! If someone is kind to me, then I should certainly reciprocate with kindness. If someone ignores me, or persecutes me by gossiping about me, then I should pray for them and find ways to express unconditional love for them, just as Jesus did for me.

The word translated as “perfect” in verse 48 may also mean to be made complete, or mature. That is not a word used to describe me very often, but in this case it is definitely a state of being I aspire to achieve. As the years mount up, I realize that my dreams will never be my reality, but my dream of reaching spiritual maturity will grow closer as I begin to practice loving others as myself.
Identify one person that you think does not like you and begin to find ways to love them. Perhaps a hand-written note, an encouraging text, or even an offer to share a meal would be an appropriate way to begin loving your enemy as yourself.
Father in heaven, please grant me the maturity needed to love others as myself. Help me extend grace to those who wrong me, even as you have shown me grace in my hour of need. Please continue to teach me how to love unconditionally, and to grow to maturity in my faith. Help me love as you do, and in Jesus’ Name, Amen.