43You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." 44But I say to you, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so 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 the unjust." — Matthew 5:43-45
We live in a day of incredible injustice, don’t we? But, in the midst of all that, we’re supposed to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, I have to confess to being really somewhat blown away by Jesus’ position on all of this. Read the context of the Scripture above in Matthew 5:38-48.
The basic operating assumption by most people is that when someone does something to you, you are entirely justified in doing back to them something else of equivalent force, and maybe a little more for good measure.
So let me tell you that for the average person living in the United States today, applying Jesus’ words about enemies is an incredibly outlandish way to live life. Let’s take the next few minutes to see if we can make some sense of it, ‘cause it is God’s Word and it is Jesus talking, so we wouldn’t want to dismiss it out-of-hand, would we?
What is an enemy? Here’s how Webster defines enemy: “one who shows antagonism, hatred, or intense dislike or hostility.” An enemy is “one who seeks or desires the failure of another.” Your enemy could be a former friend, a coworker, or a boss. It could also be a sibling whose jealousy has made them an enemy, or a spouse seeking revenge for an injury perceived or received. Here’s what an enemy is: someone who in every way or any way has set themselves in opposition to your well-being. An enemy is a person who doesn’t want good for you. They desire bad for you. They want things not to work out. They want to hurt you. It may be through neglect or through obvious action, but an enemy is a person who opposes your well-being.
Now, all opposition does not make people enemies. Jesus opposed many people. And sometimes, in speaking the truth, we must oppose our brothers and sisters. But enemies emerge when the opposition does not desire your well-being, when the ultimate desire is to injure you and to cause you to fail.
Now that you have that definition, any enemies come to mind? Jesus said, “Love them.” We’ll come back to this in Loving Your Enemies tomorrow.—James MacDonald
Heavenly Father, You practiced what You preached, even on the cross. Thank You for the example under duress, as You prayed for those who put You on the cross. Since You went to that cross for me, the least I can do is obey. Help me to treat enemies that come across my path as You commanded. In Jesus’ name, Amen.