“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” Luke 6:27-31
Last week, our devotion was focused on our need to be committed and consistent in pursuing biblical reconciliation with those who have offended us, as well as those we have offended. There is never an occasion when God gives us license to withhold forgiveness. Many of us have had various experiences, both successes and failures, in reconciling with others. Reconciliation may not conclude after one conversation. It often times involves multiple conversations or visits as you work through matters step by step. Some times you may need assistance from another in discovering and traveling the path. Jesus is the chief example of such commitment and success in reconciliation, as God reconciled us to Himself through Christ. Further, the love of Christ motivates us as ambassadors to share in the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18)
Today’s focus is on Jesus’ instruction for us to love our enemies. Having just encouraged His disciples in the Beatitudes, as well as pronouncing 4 woes to the rich, full, etc., Jesus then goes on to speak to “those who hear”. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:9) Jesus calls those who trust in Him to listen, pay careful attention to His words, and embrace them. One beatitude Jesus gave was, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.” (v. 22-23) Pause and ponder this. Here, Jesus taught them, and teaches us, about how our attitude, understanding, and action should be in the midst of persecution. Here, we find key words of blessing when we are hated, excluded and reviled for Christ’s sake. Notice the counter flesh response we should have when that happens. We are to rejoice and leap for joy- for great is your reward in heaven!
Now, keep this in mind as we approach verse 27. We, the children of God, those whom Jesus has just proclaimed are blessed by God, are those who are also hated by the world. We are the recipients of divine favor, and yet because of our union with Christ, we are reviled and have enemies- those who hate Him. As the light of Christ shines in their darkness, through His Word proclaimed by His light bearers, they don’t like what the light reveals. They don’t like being reminded of the fact that they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. They lash out, they bite, they fight against the truth. They try to get rid of the light. As we look at our enemies, those who have injured and persecuted us, notice the attitude, understanding, and action that Christ says should be present.
Here’s the question- How are we to handle our enemies and their hatred? Jesus gives us an astonishing challenge! Again, His instruction is counter flesh, counter world, and reveals the reality of new life of Christ in our lives as we walk by the Spirit. Evidence of God’s work in our lives is seen by how we live our lives, specifically here by how we handle those who hate us. Through this new life lens, Jesus calls us to love them. There is a process of loving them. This process responds to the rise of their hatred. There is hatred, exclusion, reviling, spurning our names as evil. As they fly and press the banner of hatred, we are to show Christ’s love. As they manifest their hatred towards us, we must unfold the love of Christ towards them, doing good to them, blessing them, and praying for them. We do so because we know their condition and hatred of us because of Christ in us. We do so, following Jesus’ command to love.
Now keep in mind, Jesus isn’t speaking to the civil magistrate or authorities here. He isn’t saying if someone assaults another person (v. 29a), they shouldn’t be dealt with. He isn’t saying if someone takes property from another individual (v. 29b), they shouldn’t be dealt with. He isn’t failing to address the beggar (v. 30). Jesus is speaking to us as believers in Him.
So, are you challenged by this passage today? In the details, how have you handled your enemies and their hatred? Have you responded to their banner of hatred with a similar banner of your own? Or is fruit of the reality of the new life you have in Christ evident in your love? Beloved, we all need much of His grace, work, and blessing as we consider and make needed changes in our hearts and lives in this area. Change can be hard, learning to truly love those who hate us is challenging, but such change in accordance with God’s Word is always good. May God receive all the glory as we listen to, embrace, and live lives in which we love our enemies.