Friday, March 4, 2016

Do I really have to love my enemies? Surely the Lord understands my grudges.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so 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 on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." 
Matthew 5:43-48

Do I really have to love my enemies? 

Many of us who consider ourselves Christ-followers live like we do not, and that somehow the Lord is alright with this. However, I think the Lord is clear on this matter. Yes, you must love your enemies, as a son or daughter of the Father. There is no room for grudges or turning our backs or withholding forgiveness as a believer. In fact, we must do the opposite and move toward our enemies in love.

It is absurd that we, who all were enemies of God, who were sought out by the Father at the expense of His own Son, who were completely forgiven, covered with grace, made to be His own children, co-heirs with Christ, say in our lifestyle, "Sorry, Lord, you must understand that I cannot love that person and I will not forgive them." 

Yes, Christian, it is hard, it is death to self, and it is simply beyond the capacity of a human, sinful heart. But, it is the Gospel and it is powered by the Holy Spirit within our new hearts. 

And when someone causes us pain, we can rest in our brotherhood with our Lord Jesus, the most elevated example to us of love for our enemies. He was betrayed by his closest friends, mocked by the crowds he came to save, and hated unto death for his message. We can rest in his words of shared suffering, "If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first." John 15:18 

Will people hate you because of the Christ who resides within you, Christian? Oh yes, they will. If you live by the Spirit, it will cause you persecution, no matter where you reside in this world. It will cause you to see the type of hatred that the Lord saw. But rest in His words that you are sharing in His power, "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." 
Matthew 10:22

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

So what do we do when we experience this hatred? The world says to hate back, to walk away from the relationship, to give a cold shoulder, and that such a response is completely justifiable. There's nothing unique or honorable about this type of response. It is what most people do.

Yet, perhaps the reason that a hateful person has been put into your life is so that you can show them the Gospel. And you show them the Gospel by doing what the natural man cannot do; you love them. You sincerely pray for their good. You serve them. You let your own reputation be stained by them, and you refuse to slander. You entrust yourself to the Lord, who will reward you, and will use your love as a testimony of His love toward this person. Because He loves them, just as He loved you before you knew Him, when you hated Him, too.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20

And if we consider ourselves Christ-followers and live a life of grudges and resentment, this is cause for heart-evaluation. We have desperately wicked hearts that can deceive us, and there is a real battle going on by a real enemy who wants to keep people deceived, blinded, in church, and utterly lost.

Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Matthew 7:21

Have you experienced hatred for the Gospel that lives within you? I've personally experienced this type of hate several times since becoming a Christian. Each time, I've also experienced a deeper understanding of the Father and the assurance of His work in me, as well as the reality of spiritual warfare. I've experienced the joy of His sufferings as I'm hated for His name. It is truly being crucified with Christ to respond in love toward one's enemies, and yet it causes inexpressible joy to suffer with Him. 

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. Luke 6:22-23

And when I have been tempted to play the game back, to follow my flesh and be spiteful and bitter, the Lord has disciplined me and rebuked me, "No, not my child... you will not act that way. Other people may act that way, but I will not let you do that as my child." It reminds me of how my husband and I discipline our own children out of love for them; you will not act that way, even if the other kids do.

So take heart Christian, acquainted with sorrows, rejected by men. You are the "fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). 

Many will turn away from Jesus, but some will find the narrow way. Keep loving in this hostile world, keep speaking Life without the fear of man, and what a powerful testimony of God's love you will be when you love even those who hurt you. 

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18a

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