Love Your Enemies. Jesus is not Joking


Jesus was not interested in messing around with normal levels of niceness. He was starting a whole new revolution called “Love your enemies”… and challenging us to join him.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than anyone else? Even the pagans do that, don’t they? Therefore be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Keeping the Law of Moses was challenging enough, but “be perfect”? Come on! Be reasonable. And love our enemies? Seriously? Who does that?
Jesus was introducing the New Covenant, not based on good behaviour, but based on the powerful blood of his own self-sacrifice. Only God incarnate has the power to rescue and redeem, to save and transform. But the amazing thing is that it’s true: Jesus living in us really can give us power to do the impossible. To love the unloveable. To forgive the unforgivable. This fact is proved by his disciples all around the world, all the time.

Jesus living in us really can give us power to do the impossible. To love the unloveable. To forgive the unforgivable. This fact is proved by his disciples all around the world, all the time.

“We are hurt. We are angry also, but still, as the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber, and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber, that we love you and we forgive you.”1

These are the words of Reverend Roshan Mahesen from Sri Lanka after 28 people from his church were murdered and another 70 were injured by Islamic extremists. He added:

“Jesus Christ on the cross, He said, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. We also, who follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we say for the Lord to forgive these people.”

It is only the experience of the inexhaustible love and forgiveness of Jesus that can free us to act in this way. Reverend Roshan Mahesen’s reaction was similar to words we have heard from the bereaved families of those 20 Egyptian Christians executed on the beach by ISIS.2 Even children in Iraq who know and love Jesus have extended love, forgiveness and prayers to their persecutors.3 This is the real mark of a disciple of Jesus. They know they are forgiven, and they know that they are destined for eternity with Jesus and their lost loved ones. They know they cannot lose… but that their enemies are desperately lost.
With the constant violence and atrocities happening all around us, we may be tempted to forget the revolutionary ways of our Messiah. He was not just noble – he was self-sacrificial towards those who hated him. He was not just kind to his own company – his heart broke for his own tormentors. This radical enemy-love was not just a nice theory – it was a real expectation. He personally led the way, leaving us not only with a perfect example, but with his own Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus – to help us to do the impossible.
When Jesus told us to love our enemies, he meant it.
[1] ‘We love you and we forgive you:’ Sri Lanka pastor has powerful message for radical terrorists, Caleb Parke, April 30 2019
[2} Sat7 Network – relatives of slain Egyptian Christians forgive – TV anchor stunned after Egyptian Christian says she forgives her husband’s killers
[3] – Iraqi child forgives ISIS
Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

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