Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:44

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

It is our natural tendency to love those who are most like us.  A person who is into sports is going to feel more comfortable around someone else who likes sports rather than someone who likes to knit for example.  There is nothing wrong with this tendency but it can lead to sin when it turns into discrimination so we should at least acknowledge this possibility.

Our love is not supposed to stop with the people whom we find easiest to get along with.  It also does not extend only to people from whom we have something to gain.  Just as it is easy to like someone with whom we have a lot in common with, it’s easy to like someone who always pays for dinner or who throws big parties.

Jesus says that our love is to be for everyone regardless.  We are even to love those who would be our enemies.

What does it mean to love our enemies?  It is more than just not wishing them harm.  It means that we must seek peace with them and look out for their best interests.

Love is sacrifice and love for our enemies means that we might have to sacrifice something in order to create or maintain peace.  Wisdom will dictate what this means in a particular situation; it doesn’t mean that we roll over and give every bully what they want.  But it does mean that we act contrary to what our natural reaction is which is to love ourselves first.

An Example of Unconditional Love

Hosea 3:1

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

Hosea is a minor prophet who is given a strange and unusual task.  He is to marry and show love to a prostitute even though she continually cheats on him.  He must even go and purchase her out of slavery to show his love for her.

The relationship of Hosea and his wife is a picture of God and Israel.  Israel had acted adulterously time after time by worshipping idols but God continued to love them and paid the price to redeem them.

Hosea offers an earthly example of God’s unconditional love.  It is hard to forgive someone who has wronged you and even harder to love them once again knowing that they may do the same thing to hurt you a second time.  Yet this is what Hosea does and it is what God does for us even though we continually sin and harm our relationship with Him.

In practice it is not always wise to accept someone back who has caused you harm – a repeatedly abusive husband for instance.  This illustration is not meant to comment on the wisdom in every circumstance.  It does serve as a reminder of God’s perfect love and His willingness to forgive us.  We should always seek to forgive a person when they have wronged us.  Sometimes it is unwise or even impossible to restore the relationship but unconditional love requires forgiveness at least.

Love of Justice

Isaiah 61:8

For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them.

In many Hollywood movies there is a simple format that is used.  It is actually a format that is about as old as time itself.  The good guy must overcome the bad guy.  This is portrayed in a million different ways but before the movie starts we know that in the end the good guy will triumph over the bad guy, the guy will get the girl, the girl will find her prince charming, etc.

Because we naturally root for good to triumph over evil we should also be lovers of justice.  Justice is a two way street.  It means that people who are good are rewarded while people who are bad are punished.

God loves justice and He carries it out perfectly.  The difference is that God’s perfect justice isn’t always visible and it isn’t always according to our standards.  It seems as if there are many people who get away with doing wrong in this world while good people suffer.

There will be a day of reckoning for all things however.  On earth things may not appear to be taken care of fairly; they will be righted in eternity.  People who mock God in life will not continue to do so in death.  Those who love the Lord in life will be rewarded fully in eternity.  Those who love justice must love both of these things because God is fair in all of His justice.  Whether God rewards or punishes, His justice is fair and we should love this.

Love of Money

Ecclesiastes 5:10

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.

The ultra rich JD Rockefeller was once asked how much money would be enough.  His response was “just one more dollar.”  Rockefeller’s legacy continues to this day with his name on buildings and associated with many other things.  Despite all of his wealth, he was never satisfied with it.

Solomon faced the same problem in his life.  God had blessed him tremendously and his wealth was probably incomparable to modern day standards even with men and women worth billions of dollars.  At the end of his life though he realized how meaningless all of his wealth was.  It didn’t bring him joy.

We too mistakenly think that we’ll be happy if we just get a raise or make a little bit more money.  There is nothing inherently wrong with money.  But when money becomes the driving force in our life it will leave us unhappy.

The love of money will lead to many problems in life.  And worst of all, it will never find fulfillment.  There will always be something new to buy.  There will always be something else that seems better.

Solomon reached the conclusion that only the love of God satisfied his needs.  All of his fabulous wealth and the many other things that he had been blessed with didn’t do it.  They came up empty.  He needed God’s love and he needed to love God.

Love and Obedience

Psalm 119:167

I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly.

In many places in the Bible love and obedience go hand in hand.  Obedience is a proof of love.  Jesus said that “if you love me, you’ll obey my commands.”

Often we obey for obedience’s sake.  We certainly don’t follow the speed limit because we love the government.  Instead we follow the speed limit because we don’t want to be fined or arrested.

We should follow God’s laws because we love Him however.  This isn’t always easy but we should want to please Him in all that we do because we love Him.

Psalm 119 goes even further than loving God however.  This verse speaks about loving the laws specifically.  Why would we do this?  It’s because we know who created the laws.

We probably aren’t going to love most of our government’s laws and we certainly aren’t going to love them just because the government created them.  But with God’s laws we know that they have our best interests at heart.

There were no political deals or special interests that created God’s laws.  The laws that God has given are all for us to have the best life possible.  They aren’t meant to steal our joy but to add to it.  For this reason we can love the law as well as the One who gave it.