love your enemies…

[I started sharing these blogs in hopes that they might be a blessing and encouragement to those who read them. But truth be told, most of the time they start out as truths and lessons that I am, in that moment, working and processing through. Some how they seem to take shape within my heart and soul as I “flesh them out” in the writing. Such is this blog post.]

I love the Word of God! I love reading it, I love studying it. I don’t know that I have a favorite verse or passage; that seems to change depending upon what new insight, revelation, encouragement (and the like) I’m gaining from a particular scripture passage at the time. And there is always something new to learn (or re-learn), no matter how many times I’ve read it! The Word of God, the Bible, is amazing!

However, there are some passages I’m not fond of… not at all.

Usually they’re the ones that I have the most trouble with, either in comprehending them, or, more times than not, the ones I have trouble submitting to and allowing them to conform my thoughts, my heart, my life. They are the passages that I have probably struggled with for a long, long time, but sometimes they become more poignant than at times other. Such is this time, and such is this passage.

“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. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”          Luke 6:35-36

At the time Jesus uttered these words the Jewish nation lived under the iron scepter of the Roman Empire. And though “Pax Romana”– Roman Peace, was an ideal held in high esteem by the Romans, they had there hands full as they played the ‘peace enforcers’, especially in Jerusalem, where there were no few Jewish ‘peace-breaking’ insurgents resisting the empire. To most Jews, every Roman was “the enemy.” But even within their own ranks the Jews harbored many bitter feelings, with opposing sects and social classes, just amongst themselves. “Peace” was hard to find in Israel.

Jesus’ followers were not immune to all this; and He said to them, “LOVE your enemies” and “DO GOOD to them.” Talk about mind blowing and staggering! This was far more than they had expected when they began to follow the Master.

Well, I certainly don’t have enemies as such… but I suppose that depends on how you define “enemies”.  For I am quite certain that in my life there are real and/or (and I am loathe to admit or confess this) imagined enemies. And if I were to go by my feelings alone at various points in time, “love” would not be what comes to the surface when I think of them.

And just who qualifies as these alleged enemies? Jesus actually supplied a list of characteristics I draw from to describe some of them: they may be those who actually hate you, cures you, mistreat and persecute you; they can be the ungrateful and wicked (cf Mat.5:43-48, Luke 6:36). Not an exhaustive list, but it will do. My particular ‘bone to pick’ is with the last description, those who display exceptional ingratitude, and who are just down right evil.

Quoting from one of my earlier blogs, ‘what love requires…’,  I wrote the following:

“Working within ‘the public sector’ I am constantly reminded that we live in a fallen, depraved, selfish, sinful world. Mercy is not the first thing that comes to mind when someone is treating me contemptuously or with disdain.”

I find that I have a very low tolerance level for such as these, and that I would just as soon play ‘the sons of thunder’ and call down doom upon them than to show them mercy. But what is the heart of God in this matter? And what does this say about the state of my own heart?

“I may desire to give them what (I think) they deserve, but love and compassion will give them what they really need. In light of [this], I have to walk humbly before God, because I find that I can very easily become no better than the ones I accuse. As the old saying goes, “but for the grace of God, there go I”… it is imperative that I learn to live from the center of God’s love for me, because I can only give what I have, and I want and need the constant supply of God’s love in me so I am able to give it to others.”

That leads to at least two reasons why I should love, and why I should want to, and they are both found here in the Luke passage: (1) my reward will be great, and (2) I will be a child of the Most High, “because HE is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (v.36) First off, there is reward for being merciful. Before anyone gets bent out of shape about seeking a reward, it is Jesus who offers this up as a motivation for doing good. I’ll take it; it can’t be bad if He specifically offers it. But, for me, the greater motivation is the later: “you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (v.36).

I want to be like my Father in Heaven. I want to be known as His child.

God often points to little children as examples of Kingdom living[1]. Some of the most powerful and humbling lessons I have learned have come through my children. When they are young they so desire to be like their parents, following and imitating them, not coerced, but simply out of love for them. The kingdom lesson: become like such as these. I want to be loving and merciful, even to my ‘enemies’, because my Father is, and I want to be like Him.

Quite frankly, my kids are much quicker and willing to forgive an offense than I am, as I’ve been on the receiving end of their grace on an occasion or two. 😉 But I’m not a little child anymore, and I find it a lot harder as an adult to imitate my Father, especially in these matters[2]. But I need to yield to the Spirit, leading me back to child-like simplicity, faith, wonder, and love. And the beloved Son, Jesus, who submitted His will to His Father’s, entrusting Himself to the Trustworthy One, is my example:

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.
‘He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.’
When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”
    1 Peter 2:21-23

And there in lies the key: to live so close to the Father so as to know His heart of love for me, so that I can trust Him with all the “bad stuff” hurled at me, and respond in love, even when I find it difficult to do so. I must choose to submit to His Holy Spirit within me in order to respond, not like me, but like Him. *Sigh… I’ve still got a long way to go.

Whew! Tough stuff! But Father God is for me, and His power is within me to do the hard stuff, if I will trust Him and yield to Him[3].

Oh Father! Forgive me when I’ve given in to my own selfishness, or woundedness, or my own [mis]understanding. I will trust in Your unfailing love for me, so that I can in turn love and forgive, even my enemies, as You do. You are my Father, and I am Your child; may Your likeness be found in me.

* * * * * * * *
[1] Isaiah ll:6; Matthew 18:3;19:13-14;21:16;Mark 9:37;10:13-16
[2] Over the years many things can happen to rob us of the child-likeness we once had; offenses, wounds, abuse… the list goes on and on, and we can’t address them all here. Truly there are many reasons we may struggle with this, but there are no excuses to remain in these places.
[3] Proverbs 3:5-6

About Lem Dees

Singer, song writer, worship leader... father, granddad... Lover of, beloved of, Jesus.
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