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Psalm 119:10-11 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not
wander from your commandments! I have stored up your
word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Does It Mean To Love Your Enemy?

You have heard that it was said...

One of the greatest teachings of Jesus Christ comes from the Gospel of Matthew. It is often one that is overlooked as we read quickly through the Book. It is an extreme contrast of love and hate, blessing and cursing, friend and foe... It is the teaching on loving your enemies. These three verses are a part of a bigger story. Referred to as the Sermon On The Mount, they play out as a moral law to the hearers. This chapter is not intended to fill our thoughts and minds with good intentions, rather it is here for us to have direction in how we live our life.

What exactly does it mean to love your enemies? For me this is a question I wrestled with for hours as I combed over the verses and looked into each word one by one. I originally started with a current version of the verses and it left me feeling empty. The ESV interprets verse 44 like this; (44)  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

That seems simple enough. But as I looked into the words Love and enemy I was not convinced that it was really intended to be that simple. So I went to another version, the King James. It reads like this; (44)  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; As I looked at the difference in the two versions I began to see a larger command. I then used my Greek interlinear and broke down each word and began to understand just a bit more what I think Jesus is teaching in this verse. It is packed full of so much it would probably take a three part sermon to break down fully. However, I want to share in brief what I see and what it means to me to love my enemies.

There are many ways we can try to look at a verse like this. Individually as in "how does it affect how I live." And in a more global level as in "what would it look like if this was the way of life for larger people groups or even nations." In this post I want to share what it means for me as an individual.

Let's first begin with "Love your enemies."
  • To love your enemy means to have a fondness for this person. A sort of benevolence with care and kindness. Though they come at you with hatred and hostility, we are to show them the kindness and Love of God.
  • "bless them that curse you." To bless those that curse you means to speak well of people who speak poorly of you. To pour out blessings on them.
  • "do good to them that hate you." This means to act rightly with a sort of excellence towards those who hate you.
  • "and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." And finally we are to pray for those who mistreat, abuse, and even persecute us.

That is a pretty big command... 
As I summarize it for myself it sounds something like this: 

"Love your enemy. Speak kindly of those who show you hatred. Don't retaliate, rather, show benevolence and mercy towards those that curse you. And even if you are being persecuted and abused, pray for those who are persecuting you."

We have a great example of this in our Lord Jesus. When He was hanging on the cross, it is reported in the Gospel of Luke: Luke 23:34 ESV  And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments.

I will never hang on a cross, nor will I carry the burden of the sin of the world on my shoulders. But there are people I know and encounter often that I could definitely begin putting this into practice with. Defining your enemy isn't all that hard either. An ex-spouse who is being difficult. A boss who might be demanding too much at work. Your neighbor that won't be quiet at night. The guy who cuts you off in traffic... you get the point. I thought I needed to be at war to define a person as my enemy, but as I learned from this study, it can be anyone that I have any form of conflict with.

This verse makes it pretty clear who our enemies are and how we are to treat them.

So what if everyone began to love their enemies? Would the world look a bit different? What does loving your enemies look like?

I pray today that as you read over these verses below and think about what Jesus is saying to you, you are able to begin a life of freedom from bitterness, anger, and hostility. Embrace the challenge to be more like your Savior today and love those who persecute and treat you poorly.

Isn't being like Jesus what being a disciple is all about?

Have an amazing and blessed day!


Verses used:

Matthew 5:43-45 KJV  Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  (44)  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;  (45)  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:43-45 ESV  "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  (44)  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  (45)  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.