You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Matt 5:43-45 GNT
The sum of the matter is this, that those persons are saved who place their trust solely in God, not in their works, nor in any creature. Consequently man should learn to have greater confidence in God’s mercy than in the zeal with which he makes confession. One cannot be too active, determined and guarded against the accursed evil of confiding in one’s own works. Therefore we should accustom our consciences to trust in God, and let it be done with the understanding that to believe and trust in God is pleasing to him, and that unreserved trust in God is his highest glory.
The question may be asked: “How does the living Christ feel today about the sinful men and women who walk our streets?”
There is only one answer: He loves them!
We may be righteously indignant about the things they do. We may be disgusted with their actions and their ways. We are often ready to condemn and turn away from them.
But Jesus keeps on loving them! It is His unchanging nature to love and seek the lost. He said many times when He was on earth, “I have come to help the needy. The well do not need a doctor—but the sick need attention and love.”
There is no doubt in my mind that sin is prevalent today. And just noting that, may be a sin. It is when I look at the sins of others as if I was the judge, When I catch myself at doing such, I cringe, and wonder if I am ever going to learn…
More precisely, am I ever going to learn to walk with Jesus
My indignation, my disgust, my willingness (even eagerness) to walk away is as sinful as whatever sin they committed.
I need to see His desire to them back, to draw them into His presence–so they can heal. For that reinforces that I am healed as well.
This is what it means to love your enemies more than anything else you can do. To help them see the grace of God is directed to them, and it heals what divides us.
We cannot hold back the grace of God that we’ve come to know. The church does not have that authority–we only have the responsibility to make it known to everyone, just as it was made known to us. For then, as we encourage others to share in the mercy of God, have become like Jesus, and like our Father.
This is the Church, investing what it treasures, the relationship where the Father in Heaven treasures is, and wants us all to be His people….
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 390.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15 Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. 16 Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.
Romans 12:9-17 (MSG)
Christ raised up the image of Adam. You are not just clay; you extend beyond all cosmic dimensions to the very Heart of God. It is not the one who is scourged who is degraded, but the one who scourges; not the one spat upon, but the one who spits; not the one put to scorn, but he who puts to scorn; it is not pride that raises man up, but humility; not self-glorification that makes him great, but that union with God of which he is capable.
Union with God, what a concept laid out for us in this quote in blue. Union with God.
I hear in the background two voices, one saying we can’t be buddy buddy with God, the other where Jesus tells us that we are not his servants, but his friends. One that cries out for reverent submission, one which sees God the Father running faster than anyone else to welcome us home.
I struggle with this because I have seen the extreme where Jesus being our friend mutates to the idea that He is a good ole boy who understands our sinful nature and simply turns a blind eye to it. I have seen the other extreme as well, where we are so terrified of being caught in sin that our reaction is to try to run and hide from Him, rather than run to Him.
The balance isn’t even on the radar of the extremes, for the balance is found as God draws us in and in His cultivation of our relationship with Him.
Even as we do this, we need, we must realize when we talk of God loving us this way, we are talking about a larger group than you and I. We are talking about all the people that Christ died for, really we are talking about all people.
You aren’t just a bunch of dirt, and neither am I. Our value is that our lives don’t just matter to God – they are previous, we are precious – priceless in His evaluation. So are those we discount, those we struggle with, those we fear. Their lives are just as precious, they are people that God has in His heart.
This is why Paul calls us to love people, to recognize God’s Spirit in them, and to see God’s desire that all would be His family. Just as we are. To realize our enemies have the same God who cares for them, the God who doesn’t dismiss or write them off, or consider them lower that dirt. He discovers the beauty in each of us, or rather, He created us with that beauty, and reveals it more and more as we know HIs love.
This no “them” for a Christian, no dividing line, even that label enemy cannot divide people from us, for it didn’t divide us from Jesus. He draws us into himself anyway, loving us, cherishing us, healing our souls, and helping us to see others whose souls He would heal as well.
Lord have mercy on us all… AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional /discussion thought for the day!
“All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly,; his behavior has been reprehensible and unworthy, he deserves no merit at ALL!
Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added.
I understand what you mean. I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred! Christ has died to save it, if He did not despise it, how can you dare to?” (J. Escriva, The Furrow)
We often talk about the commandment, “you shall not bear false witness” in regards to our deeds – what we say. But we know from Matthew 5 that it is not just about our deeds but our thoughts. Luther’s small catechism urges us to “see the best side of everything he does” (some translate it “put the best construction on it”. ) Again, we see the challenge, of doing this not only in what we say in public, but what we think and feel in our hearts.
For surely we all have people that irritate or annoy us, whose behavior is just… hard not to see as wicked, or narcissistic. Yet we are called to love them, to forgive them, to work alongside them and encourage them to look to Christ, for forgiveness – and yes as Paul urges – to imitate Him.
Hear these words… though they be hard…
5:44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. Matthew 5:44-47 (MSG)
This is not easy, for we struggle with doing it, because of our own sin, or those sins of theirs which we repress rather than forgive. Yet we too need to look to Jesus, who did exactly this – He looked at what we have done, and died, so that the absolute best construction would be all that is visible to the Father! Look at the underlined phrase above… and realize – God has given you His best – and He puts the best construction on you… that you are His righteous, holy, unstained by sin, children.
It is from realizing this, that you can go… and in thought word and deed look at those who most would count as your enemies, as see them with love – your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus! So look at them – see them under the cross… with Christ saying about them… Father forgive them, and there… in that moment.. find the strength to love His friend, His adopted brother, the one along with you whom He died to save…
And know the peace of God is with you – as is His mercy… and love!