One of the most distinguishing characters of our Lord is His uncompromising love for His enemies. He refused to hate, exclude, defame, or ruin His own enemies. I believe Jesus came to redefine the meaning of love for His followers. In our modern days, however, we the followers of Christ believe in the concept of loving our enemies but have difficulty living it out.
At the Renovare Conference last week, Dallas Willard said, “You don’t have to go too far to find your enemies, because they are in your Church.” I shared this with someone in New Life, and he said, “Why Church when you can find enemies in your own House Church.” Initially, I laughed, but the more I thought about it my heart started to hurt.
According to Jesus, loving our enemies is not a passive behavior but a proactive expression of “doing good” (vv 27, 33, 35) in the face of opposition. However, we so easily exclude people that do not agree with us, and instead of trying to win them over we keep them at a safe distance. When Jesus asked us to love our enemies, do you think He was making a suggestion so that we could debate about it or simply submit to His command?
During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln often made visitations to the Confederate soldiers and gave them food. One of the Union soldiers said to him, “Why are you giving food to our enemies?” Abraham Lincoln responded by saying, “I destroy my enemy by making him my friend.”
John Ortberg, a well known author and one of the speakers at the Renovare Conference, said there are three kinds of convictions: Public Conviction, Private Conviction, and Core Conviction. Public Conviction is acting to believe in something that he or she does not believe. A biblical example is Herod the king who commanded the Magi to search for the Child and report to him because he wanted to worship the Child (Matt. 2:8). Private Conviction is believing in something sincerely but failing to believe in them due to pressure or circumstance. A biblical example is Peter who sincerely claimed that he would rather die before he would deny Jesus but later failed to even acknowledge Him. Core Conviction is believing in something you will not violate. Often, however, we don’t know what our core beliefs are until we are faced with a situation. Thus, I believe how we handle difficult circumstances will reveal what our core convictions are.
Loving our enemies must be our core conviction, which we will never violate. If we cannot love people who are in our lives, loving our enemies was never part of our core conviction. We have acted as if we love one another in a shallow fashion without any depth of Christ love within us.
Ortberg said many Christians are users of Jesus who only do the minimum entrance requirements of getting into heaven. Often, we abandon difficult relationships or difficult circumstances mainly because we can’t get our ways. Perhaps we are mere admirers of Jesus and not fully devoted followers of Jesus.
T.S. Eliot described the current human endeavor as that of finding a system of order so perfect that we will not have to do good. Jesus commands us three times percussively in this passage to “do good” unto our enemies, and Paul said, “Overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). The revolution of Jesus was not for us to become countercultural followers of Him but to be God-like to others.
To my amazement, people always know how others need to change but they are unaware of the deviously hidden dimensions of their “within” life. King Solomon said, “God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecc. 7:29).
Can we love our enemies by well managing our lives? Psalmist said, “Search me, O God,” because he realized that human efforts to do good will fail because he himself could not comprehend the complexity of his inner life apart from God. Thus, the psalmist cried out, “See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” There must be a movement of Spirit of the living God in our inner world in such a way that it becomes like the inner world of Christ.
When Jesus said, “Come…and learn from me,” it does not mean to learn how to act but learn to have life with God. Here, our ruined soul will be radically restored to the goodness of God, in which the flow of God’s love through us will astonish even ourselves.
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