Your enemies are worthy of your love!
If Jesus tells us to love our enemies, but you refuse to love them, and deem them unworthy of your love, or you simply are unwilling to love them, then where does that place you in relation to Jesus? Doesn’t your refusal to love even your enemies make you an enemy of Christ?
If God says that your enemies are worthy of God’s love, but you refuse to love them, thinking them unworthy of your love, or you are simply unwilling to love them, where does that place you in relation to God? Doesn’t your judgment of others and your pronouncements of unworthiness make you an enemy of God?
Refusing to love your enemies makes you an enemy of Christ and places you on the wrong side of God. Your piety, your church attendance, your prayers, your conduct, even your donations will not save you! They will not know that you are a disciple by your church attendance, but by your love!
Prayers without love; piety without love; donations without love; church attendance without love — these are all empty sacrifices. They burnt offering that the Lord despises. The Lord says over and over through His prophets that He does not want burnt offerings (c.f. Isaiah 1:11). The Lord says that He desires Mercy, not Sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). The Psalmist says to the Lord:
For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it;
a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn. (Psalm 51)
And the Lord Jesus tells us, quoting from the prophet Isaiah:
These people give me nothing but lip-service!
Their hearts are far away from me!
They are just going through the motions when they worship me!
They teach their own commandments and ignore the ones I gave them!” (Isaiah 29:13)
And what is the commandment that the Lord gives us? He gives us the commandment to love, even our enemies.
The worst form of blasphemy there is, is to gather in the name of Christ and claim Christ’s presence, and then use that gathering as a means to deny love to anyone. For we are not gathered in Christ’s name but in Christ — and Christ is what He taught us! What Christ taught us is the will of His Father in heaven.
We do not gather in His name because many will say to Him on the last day:
“Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
But how does Jesus tell us he will respond?
I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
Why will He say this? Because:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21-23)
So when Jesus says that “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), He is not saying to gather in words or merely to call Him “Lord, Lord” but to be the Body of Christ! If we come together as His body, He will be in the midst of us as His Spirit – For just as my own spirit is in the midst of me, the Spirit of Christ is in the midst of the Body of Christ whenever we assemble as that Body. Therefore, when we come together as the Body of Christ, we come together as Christ Himself and Christ loved His enemies even to the point of praying for them from the cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
So Jesus not only tells us to love our enemies, He shows us HOW to love our enemies. We pray for them! We pray for them to be forgiven, especially because they may not know what they are doing. Many people have been deceived into thinking that their hatred and their bigotries and their abuses somehow are in the service of God – But how did Jesus respond to the hate of His fellow Jews, how did Jesus respond to the bigotries of the Romans, how did Jesus respond to the abuse of the crowd that demanded his crucifixion? He prayed for them; He interceded for them; He forgave them from the cross and asked God to forgive them too because they did not know what they were doing. They did not know that their “service to God” was not a service to God at all, but in reality a service to abuse and bigotry and hatred.
Are your enemies any worse than these? Are you justified in your refusal to forgive, to love, to pray because your enemies are worse than the enemies that placed our Lord upon a cross? Even if they are, the response from our Lord would be to love them MORE, to pray for them MORE, to forgive them MORE.
If your enemies are unworthy of your love, then you are unworthy of God’s love. If you are unwilling to love your enemies, then you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven because you are just saying “Lord, Lord” and not doing the will of the Father in Heaven. If you cannot love your enemies, then you cannot follow Christ, and you do not love God. You may love God with your lips, but your heart is far away from Him — and with God, flattery will get you nowhere, but Love is everything.
Your enemy, regardless of who he is and what he may have done is a human being just like you. He is flawed and prone to error just like you. Your enemy is your brother or your sister regardless of whether or not you want to accept that, but your enemies are Children of God just as you are a Child of God; therefore, your enemies are your brothers and sisters, and how you treat your enemies declares how you feel about God:
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21).
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:11)
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him (1 John 3:15)
For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another. (1 John 3:11)
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the father loves [also] the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. (1 John 5:1-3)
And your enemies are created by God in the image of God and are children of God. Therefore, we love God by loving them because keeping God’s commandments is how we love God (just as keeping Christ’s commandments are how we love Christ). What then are we commanded to do?
“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, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Regardless of whether we think our enemies are children of God, our status as children of God is based on if we love our enemies.
And even if it is difficult to love your enemies, and even if you feel the need for some sort of revenge, Saint Paul tells us that the best way to get back at our enemies is to treat them with love:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” (Romans 12:20)
Saint Paul is quoting from Proverbs 25:21 which goes on to say that if you do these things for your enemy (feed him when he is hungry and give him a drink when he is thirsty), not only do you make him stew, but God sees your kindness and will vindicate you. Proverbs says that the way to beat your enemy is to be kind to him and give him what he needs when he needs it. The Lord says to do this because that is how we show that we love the Lord. God tells us to do this because that is how we show we love God.
Who knows? Maybe if we just start loving our enemy and treat our enemy with kindness, our enemy will not be our enemy any more. When you have an enemy you look for ways to hurt him. You look for ways to prick at him and make him angry or suffer in some way. If your enemy shows you that no matter what you do, you cannot hurt him or make him angry or get under his skin, you end up hurting yourself and becoming more and more angry with attempt to hurt him. He wins just by not letting you get to him. Love is the means of winning. If your enemy responds to you with patience and kindness and acceptance in response to everything you do that is designed to hurt him, then your enemy is showing you that there is nothing you can do to hurt him. More than that, it exposes the kind of person you really are because if you are actively trying to hurt someone who is unceasingly patient and kind to you, you will come across as a hateful, petty, and small person. So the command to love our enemies is not only crucial in our relationship with God, it is not only crucial in our relationship with Christ, it is not only crucial for our eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, it is simply just good, practical advice.
So love your enemies because in the end it is not about you and them, it is about you and God. By refusing to love your enemy, you are giving a person the power to rob you of a relationship with God, discipleship with Christ, and maybe even eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is a lot of power to give another person over you. Take back that power: Trust God, obey Christ, and love your enemies.