Loving Our Enemies in the Same Way that Jesus Loves Us
Have you ever uttered the words, "They'll never change!"
We continually get up after being knocked down time and time again. We see the same patterns, feel the same heartache, grumble at the same frustrations, and feel the same hurts over and over again.
Slowly, over time, we close ourselves off to these hurtful people in our lives. Instead of showing Jesus' love, we show them our cold shoulder. Instead of showing them genuine forgiveness, we show them genuine bitterness and anger, maybe even hatred. Instead of believing that God is bigger than the offense, we believe that the offense is bigger than God.
How do we love these repeat offenders in the same way that Jesus loves us? How do I love this hurtful person, this enemy, in the same way that Jesus loves me?
We're usually taught to hate our enemies, but when we look at Jesus, we see an entirely different mindset. Instead of hatred, we see Jesus encouraging us to genuinely love our enemy. He encourages us to go above and beyond the expected to show the love of God to our enemies.
I can't help but be reminded of 1 John 4:19 where John points out that we love because God first loved us.
Don't you remember? Before we chose to submit our lives to Jesus, we were His enemy. Before I ever even knew who He was, He died on the cross for me. He took my punishment, stood in my place, and loved me so genuinely and completely and sacrificially as He willingly gave up His own life so that I might be extended the gift of salvation. Those were my nails in His hands and feet. Every time they whipped His back, that should have been my back. He took my place, even though I was His enemy.
How do we love our enemies in the same way that Jesus Loves Us?
Love Your Enemy and Pray for those who persecute you.
Sometimes, we want to be given permission to hate, but instead, Jesus gives permission to love. Choosing to love requires adopting a different mindset. As mentioned above, we're taught to hate our enemies and He teaches us to love them. How do we move from this place of hate to love? Why would Jesus encourage us to love our enemies and to take that a step further and pray for them?
I believe the reason He mentions to pray for those who persecute us, is simply so that we can gain His heart for them. We can't love with a love that's out of this world and reflective of God and His Kingdom, unless God has control of our submitted heart. We need Him to come into our heart and make His home there. We need Him to change us from the inside out, so that we can love with His love.
My prayer is simply that God would have control of my tongue, of my heart, of my being, so that my enemy sees Him more than they see me.
Do more than the Norm
If we love only our brothers or only love those who love us back, then what is our reward? What more are we doing than others? He doesn't call us to begrudgingly show kindness to our enemies, much like children who have to be told to hug a sibling they're unhappy with. He calls us to go beyond the norm. He calls us to reflect Him to our enemy. That might mean that we show hospitality to our enemy. It might mean choosing to go out of your way to show kindness to the workplace bully. It might mean taking radical steps of obedience to God to reach the heart of the one who has hurt you.
Be Like Jesus
Have you ever glanced at the people in Jesus' life who didn't have His best interests at heart? Have you noticed the Pharisees and Sadducees and other religious leaders who went out of their way to try and entrap Him so that they could kill Him? Have you noticed how Jesus responded to them? While He knew what they had intended, He still chose to share His message of Good News with them. There were more than one religious leader who were once enemies who chose to become followers and friends of Jesus.
What about you and me? We were His enemies. He definitely went above and beyond as He took our cross. He did that knowing that we may or may not ever choose to love Him back! He was good to us, kind to us, genuinely loving towards us, and we didn't deserve an ounce of it!
All He has asked of us is to simply love others (including our enemies) in the same way He loves us. To love others, even when they don't deserve it.
So when we're looking at someone saying, "They'll never change!" Take a quick look inward and realize that you've changed. You went from Jesus' enemy to His friend. What if your own obedience to Jesus' call to love your enemy causes your enemy to become Jesus' friend and yours too? What if your obedience to Jesus means that your enemy chooses to receive Jesus' gift of salvation and freedom?
Need more encouragement? Check out this other post called, Letting Go of Offense. Also, join us on our Facebook Page as we dive into this post! You can expect videos, related blog posts, and other resources!