I don’t know about you but that seems impossible. How in the world can you love someone who doesn’t love you? How in the world can you love someone who wants to do you harm and tear you down? It’s much easier for me to love people who already love me; like my husband, my children and my friends.
We have had times, and still do that we get on each other’s nerves. There are times when we have disagreements and differing points of view. But at the end of the day we still love each other. But in today’s passage, Jesus comes along and tosses in this monkey wrench of saying that not only are we to love those who love us but we’re even to love those who don’t love us! Many of us read that and think, “Are you kidding me?” Our more natural reaction is like a certain truck driver:
Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists - of the Hell’s Angels type - decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his French fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it.
How would you respond? Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the till and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night.
When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, "Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?" She replied, "I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot."
That seems fair right? That would be justice. We totally get that. When someone wrongs us our first instinct is to get them back! Our first instinct is to make them hurt as much as they hurt us. That is the world’s answer to being wronged. But Jesus gives His followers a different response they’re to have. He tells us we’re to love our enemies. Luke 6:27-31.
“27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
First, He tells us that you’re to do good to those who hate you. It isn’t enough to just say it- we’ve got to live it out! That may mean shoveling the walk of a cantankerous neighbor. It may mean volunteering to help a co-worker that you don’t get a long with or speaking graciously to an ex-spouse on the phone.
The 2nd response you’re to have toward your enemies is to bless those who curse you. It certainly goes against our initial response to someone that curses us. Words and actions bring us a lot of pain- so turning around and blessing them instead of cursing them back is very difficult.
When we have held onto the hurt and pain for a long time- it’s difficult to let go. Jesus is our example- He didn’t dish it out when he was cursed or ridiculed- he walked away. He will give us the strength to do the same. When we have Jesus’ love and forgiveness in our life and the freedom, He has given us- even when those feelings of pain and bitterness rise up within us- we can claim Jesus and His power to break the power of sin and darkness in our lives. Over and over again He will remind you and me; “greater is He that is in me and he that is in this world!” Our example, and our strength come only from Jesus.
Third, we must pray for those that mistreat us. That doesn’t mean a prayer to get even, or a prayer for vengeance- it’s a sincere prayer for that person to find healing, to know Jesus, to experience God’s healing for whatever may be going on in their life. Praying for our enemy is not easy. But when we pray for our enemies it can actually serve as a tool to keep us from being destroyed by bitterness and anger.
St. Patrick- the patron Saint of Ireland lived out this principle in his life. Patrick was kidnapped when he was 16 and taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. During this time, he worked as a shepherd. Lonely and afraid, he turned to God for solace, becoming a devout Christian. He also had a vision of converting the Irish people to a faith in Jesus Christ.
After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than 15 years. After his ordination as a priest, he returned to Ireland with a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish.
Patrick understood Jesus’ message of loving his enemies. He was willing to return to those that had held him captive and share the message of the gospel with them. Patrick practiced his faith by not just putting up with his enemies- but by loving them enough to share the truth of Jesus and the hope of eternity with them.
If you have someone that you are struggling to love, struggling to forgive- I want to encourage you to bring that hurt, that pain to Jesus and begin today to love them as Jesus loves you. We are called to live above ‘pay back and hatred’ and take the higher road in loving our enemy. Let Jesus give you His strength to love your enemy. “When He tells us to love our enemies He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” Corrie Ten Boom
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