“But I say to you who hear, ‘Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27)
Put yourself in the place of the Lord. You want to get across to your people the importance of fellowship inside the body, how to keep relationships strong, and how to correct them when they get out of whack. So, what do you do?
Do you tell your people to love their children? to love their parents? their sweethearts?
They already do. Jesus said even bad people love their own.
Instead, Jesus tells us to love our enemies—the absolute last people on earth we would think of loving. We tend to think of our enemies as completely unlovable, the guy who did us wrong and is planning worse, the kind of people we want to hate or fear or resent and are thinking of getting back at.
Love my enemies? Are you kidding, Lord? I don’t even like them.
The good news is He does not tell us we have to like them. Some of them He doesn’t like very much either. ‘Like’ has nothing to do with it. It’s about love.
We have to love them.
This is not an option. The command to love our enemies is found three times in the gospels–Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27 and 35. The principle, however, is planted all through Scripture. We’re stuck with it. This is something our Lord Jesus Christ fully expects from His disciples.
You and I take great comfort in knowing this is how God in Heaven behaved toward us when we were His adversaries. “God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
He expects nothing less than the same kind of active love from His disciples.
Are you a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ? I don’t mean a Facebook friend or a fan or a favorite. I’m not referring to liking Jesus or admiring HIm, not to voting for Him or supporting Him. Not simply a believer or just a member.
A disciple: a devoted, lifelong, here-for-the-duration, saved-by-the-blood-of-Jesus-Christ child of God!
Not one of His advisers, counselors or partners. Not a stockholder, associate or hired hand.
Are you willing to take seriously His commands and do them whether or not you like them or understand them or see how they could possibly work out? Are you willing to do something strictly on faith, which on the surface seems precisely the opposite of what common sense says to do?
If you are, then you are a disciple.
If not, then you need to ask some serious questions about your relationship with Jesus Christ.
FIRST: quit thinking of love as an emotion and start seeing it as ‘something we do.’
In the Bible, love is never only an emotion. Love is an action. Every time God’s Word tells us to love someone–God, our neighbors, fellow believers, strangers, whoever–He’s not instructing us to feel anything. We’re being told to do loving things for them.
SECOND: The simple fact is that we cannot command our emotions.
Try making yourself feel angry. Or afraid. Or loving. You can’t do it. If love is an emotion and nothing else, God is out of line in commanding it for the simple reason that we cannot force ourselves to feel anything.
THIRD: There is an emotion of love, but love is far more than an emotion.
There is a fragrance of bacon frying in the pan (it’s one of my favorites!). But bacon is far more than a fragrance. It is solid meat, real food, protein. I suppose it’s possible to put the fragrance in an aerosol can and to spray the smell of bacon throughout your house. You could do that and still be dying of hunger.
So with love. Even though we enjoy the sensation of love, we must never confuse that with the essence of love. Love is caring enough for the other person’s welfare that we do loving things on their behalf.
FOURTH: The emotion of love is like a caboose that follows the train. (Remember those?)
Sometimes the caboose is there and sometimes it isn’t. No matter. A train will run with or without one. But it would be a serious mistake to try to pull the train by the caboose. And even more serious an error to try to run our lives by the emotion of love.
Have you ever heard someone say they didn’t feel like going to church or reading their Bible today? My counsel to them is, “Do it anyway. Feelings have nothing to do with it.” After all, how many of us will get up tomorrow morning and not feel like going to work or to school? But you go on anyway–and something strange happens: fifteen minutes later you’re fine.
Rescue your life from bondage to your emotions, friend.
The Lord has instructed that you and I are to do loving things to God, to our neighbors, to fellow believers, to our family and friends–and yes, to our enemies.
What things? Glad you asked. Because the Lord did not leave us in the dark on that?
The text–Luke 6:27 and following–spells out four actions Jesus wants His disciples to take–
“Do good to those who hate you.” (6:27)
“Bless those who curse you.” (6:28)
“Pray for those who mistreat you.” (6:28)
“Give to those who ask of you.” (6:29-30)
Then, for most of the rest of this chapter, Jesus repeats and reinforces those four actions He is commanding.
Do good, bless, pray, and give.
These are the four most basic acts of love. We do those things to everyone we love almost automatically. We do them to God, to our neighbors, family, everyone. And we are to do them to our enemies.
Now, with our children and sweethearts, those we hold closest to our hearts, we do more than these 4 things. We hold them and sweet-talk them, we kiss them and spend all the time we can with them. With neighbors and fellow disciples, we get together and hang out, we laugh and worship and eat and fellowship.
We are not instructed to do any of those things with our enemies. Just the basic, bottom four–the four most rock-bottom acts of love.
Do good: help him out, cut his grass, pick up the trash on his sidewalk, purchase from his store; when he loses his job, help him find another one.
Bless: say positive, uplifting things to him and also about him (to the extent you can).
Pray: intercede with the Father on his behalf.
Give: make a cake, send him an anonymous $10 bill in the mail, take her a Christmas present.
This was not a new concept when Jesus spoke it. Proverbs says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat. If he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (25:21)
Why? What possible reasons could God have in mind for requiring such counter-intuitive behavior from His people?
The next verse supplies two answers: “For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” (25:22)
You’ll make the enemy miserable and God proud!
I can identify six solid reasons for the Lord commanding His disciples to do loving things toward the people who have done us wrong. You will think of more.
When we “do love”–do good, bless, pray, and give–toward our enemies, this is what happens…
1. It stops the increasing hostilities dead in their tracks.
To retaliate against a wrong-doer only increases the enmity and escalates the strife. It continues a vicious cycle that can only produce more and worse ill will.
The enemy was expecting you to get revenge, and he’s even planning his response. Suddenly, you do the unexpected thing and surprise him with an act of love. He is stunned. That was not in his playbook.
What does he do now? If he does something bad to you again, it makes him look evil and feel terrible. He doesn’t want that.
2. It confounds the real and ultimate enemy of mankind, Satan himself.
The devil is furious. This is not the behavior he was counting on. He’s been playing with these Christians through the centuries and he knows many are just as carnal as their enemies and can be counted on to act according to his game plan. But then you act in love and throw him for a forty-yard loss! (Ask any football fan how crucial that is!)
3. It honors the Lord in Heaven.
God is proud of you! You have acted not by your feelings, but on faith. You have obeyed the command of Jesus even when your heart was hurting and those around you were counseling vengeance. Hebrews 11:16 is talking about people like you: “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
When we act by faith in the face of overwhelming odds, God is always honored.
4. It bears a life-changing witness to outsiders and non-Christians.
“Finally,” some outside observer of the Church thinks to himself, “we’ve found some Christians who act like Jesus. On the cross, He forgave His executioners and prayed for those who put Him there. I want what they’ve got!”
5. It strengthens the church, whereas strife was destroying its harmony and threatening its very existence.
Acts 6:7 describes the strengthening the Jerusalem church received after the Lord’s people did the loving thing in a crisis that could have destroyed them. And look who responded to their love–even the Jewish priests! The unsaved community wants in on such love! (Who doesn’t? We all do.)
6. It banishes the hard feelings that were building up inside us.
Love overcomes evil, we’re told throughout Scripture. Good overcomes bad. The best way to prove that is to shower love upon someone you were being tempted to hate or resent. You do loving things toward someone who has acted cruelly toward you and soon you find that all negative feelings toward him/her have disappeared. “Wow,” you think. “God is right!”
Okay. Now what?
Every sermon is made up of two parts: what and so what? We’re now down to the ‘so what’ part of this subject.
Here is the answer from our Lord:
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:17)
The blessings of Heaven are not promised–I hope you have noticed–to those who hear the Word of the Lord, or those who love it and learn it and teach it. Those are all great things to do, but God’s blessings are promised only to those who do them.
We love to hear sermons and Bible study lessons. We love to memorize Scripture and teach it and distribute it. We defend it and support it and spread it. But Heaven’s blessings are given to those who obey it.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them is like a man who built his house upon a rock…” (Matthew 7:24)
Is there someone you’ve been disliking because of his/her behavior? You have been wishing they’d drop off the edge of the universe? You’ve even thought of getting back at them and doing unto them as they did to you?
You’ve found something far better. You’re going to do loving things to them, and watch what happens in the enemy camp!
This is going to be fun. Pull up a ringside seat. God is going to use you as He never has before, because you were faithful.
God is about to heal your heart, irritate the devil and enrage his crowd. By your faithful actions, you are about to bless the Lord Jesus Christ and Heaven’s angels, build up your church, and show outsiders what real Christianity looks like.
You knew God uses adversity; that was settled a long time ago.
Now you learn He also uses adversaries; that one is not so well known. But because of your faithfulness, the word is about to get out.
You know this; now go do it.