“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.Matthew 5:43-45 NIV
“Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” This sounds like advice that many today would give and would agree with. And it seems to have been a common sentiment in Jesus’ day. In fact, they would have looked to the Scripture to support their position, although the ‘hate your enemy’ part was more targeted than this general statement would indicate.
But Jesus, as he so often did, turned things upside down. Rather than hating our enemies, he tells us to love them and pray for them. Praying for them does not seem like an unreasonable thing to do. But loving them is quite another thing. Why in the world should I be expected to love someone who is seeking to cause me harm. That doesn’t make much sense.
Loving Our Enemies
And, from a worldly perspective it probably doesn’t make much sense. But if we are followers of Jesus, we are no longer of this world, even though we still live in. And we are expected to live by a different standard. We are called to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:44). We are to seek to be like the one who loved the world so much that he gave his Son as a living sacrifice for the sins of the world. God loved his enemies. And he expects us to do the same.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus helps us to understand who our neighbor is. But who is our enemy? We tend toward thinking in terms of warfare, those on the other side of the conflict are our enemies. But it does not have to be open warfare. Oftentimes our opposing views on any number of issues divide us into opposing camps. And that has been obvious during this past election cycle as well as in the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest crisis we are facing.
But, as believers, we should not allow our differing opinions about those issues to divide us. Let God’s love work in and through us to unite us together as one body in Christ. Love your enemy, those with opposing views, and pray for them.