Love Your Enemies! Really?

Read: Luke 6

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:35-36, NLT)

Quite often, Jesus’ commands aren’t the kind that can be automatically or easily carried out; they require careful thought and great exertion of the will in applying them. So it is with this case, loving our enemies. For some people, this command is just humanly impossible, so it gets ignored altogether. That is too bad!   For others, they ignorantly try to apply Jesus’ words well beyond what he intended.  That is also too bad.

Christ’s followers would do well to accurately think through this law of love and then strategically live it out in their relationships.  If they did—on both accounts—the world would be a much different and better place.

There were four different Greek words for “love” that the Gospel writer Luke could have chosen to capture Jesus’ words regarding the Christian’s response to his enemies.  Luke didn’t choose storge—which meant “family love”; he didn’t choose eros—which meant the “passionate love of irresistible longing”; he didn’t chose philos—which was the warmest Greek word describing love of “the most tender affection”. The word used here for “love” was agape.  That word referred to an “unconquerable, benevolent, invincible, reconciling kindness” kind of love.

Now in the case of loving an enemy, that kind of love is not something of the heart; it requires mainly something of the will—something we will likely have to will ourselves into. Agape with your enemy is, in fact, a victory over that which comes instinctively to us by nature: anger, resentment and retribution toward hurtful people.

Agape love belongs to the true disciple of Jesus. It is the one and only weapon in the disciple’s arsenal able to conquer all. Someone has rightly said, “It belongs to the children of God to receive blows rather than to inflict them. The [loving] Christian is the anvil that has worn out many hammers.” The law of agape love, fully embraced and obediently lived out, is that powerful!

Now people have tried to apply this teaching to promote pacifism in international relationships. That’s a nice try—and not a bad idea whenever possible. But foremost, the enemy Jesus has in mind is the one we meet in our everyday life: A spouse, a sibling, a classmate, a co-worker or a neighbor—those who have hurt our feelings, frustrated our desires, misunderstood our intentions, misrepresented our words or demeaned our character. You see, it is much easier to declare peace between nations than it is to live a life where we never allow bitterness, anger and retribution to invade our personal relationships.

Jesus is saying that when we practice this law of love on a personal basis, we make breaking the cycle of bitterness and retribution possible where it really counts: In the real world of our daily lives.  Moreover, in so doing, we actually catalyze another law, the law of reconciliation.

Reconciliation!  That is at the heart of why Jesus came to earth—to reconcile God and sinners, and to reconcile sinners with one another. Think of all the fractured relationships that would be reconciled if we would choose to obey the law of love.

Not only that, but in living out this law of love, we become like God—something that truly honors and pleases the heart of our Father. That’s what Jesus said: “You will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35, NLT)

That is a pretty compelling reason for choosing to express this unconquerable, benevolent, kind, invincible, reconciling agape love—especially toward people who least deserve it. It is who God is, it is what God does, it is when we are most like God, and it is what his Son asked us to do:

“You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:36, NLT)

So what’s stopping you?

“Love your enemies just in case your friends turn out to be your enemy.”

What If God Took Over?

To what enemy do you need to extend unconquerable, benevolent, invincible, reconciling kindness?  Go do it! It’s what your Father would do—and you’ve got his DNA.


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