“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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5: 43 – 48
This is a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately especially in light of the political environment in our country right now. How do we as Christians love our enemies and still support our nation in defending itself from very real enemies who want to see our destruction?
Unfortunately, one of the methods used by governments to get their citizens to support war is to make the enemy so evil that they become very easy to hate. Now granted some villains do that all by themselves without any help from propaganda, but others take a little more work. And why are some enemies ignored while others are obsessed over? How can we be sure that the enemy we are told to go to war against is really the villain.
There is no way I have the answers, I suspect that very few of the citizens of any country ever really know what is happening behind the closed doors of even “open” governments. We only know what “THEY” tell us. We hate who “THEY” tell us to hate, we go to war when “THEY” tell us to go to war. Jesus said, “You have heard it said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” Isn’t that exactly what governments dictate to their citizens? They decide who our neighbors are and who our enemies are and they tell us who to love and who to hate.
I just finished re-reading an old favorite book, Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes. It’s a story set during the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. There was a section that hit home with me because it was in regard to this same topic. In the story Johnny was lamenting the fact that he had become friends with British soldiers who were in a few days going to be his enemy. During our Revolution, which was for all intents and purposes a civil war, the colonists were fighting against their own relatives and friends. The same thing happened in the Civil War, brothers and cousins fighting against each other. Even in the World Wars men who lived in the US went home to fight for Germany. This dilemma of having to make a choice to fight against those you love for a higher purpose is an old, sad story. How can someone you already love become your enemy because your government says they have to now be your enemy? That enemy is easy to love and to remember in your prayers.
The greater problem comes when we need to love those who hate us. Those who rage against us, those who kidnap and kill innocents and then brag over their dead bodies, are the ones that are impossible to love and yet we are told to love those very ones. This is the situation that got Jonah swallowed by the big fish. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach and he didn’t want to because the Ninevites were the most vicious enemy of the day. He was worried that if he preached to them they would repent and God would spare them from destruction. It’s easier to hate our enemies, kill them and let God sort it out.
The problem with this scenario and the reason Jesus told us to love is that once we start hating it’s just too easy to continue hating. First we hate the foreign enemy, and then we hate the political opponent. Everything has become so divided in this country that if someone doesn’t think just like we do we put a label on them and the hate starts. The talk show hosts keep us stirred up and tell us what to believe. Oh well they’re a “Liberal” or a “Religious Right Winger” the label justifies the hate. We never again listen to anything they say because we are sure we know exactly what they believe because they are a _________, (fill in the blank). The same thing happened during the “Revolution” when our founding fathers, who have been held up to be righteous Christian men, were in the midst of their struggle. The colonists were divided between the two parties of Whig or Tory. It got so bad and so contentions that there are actually documented cases of harassment and beatings by BOTH parties on the other.
It’s time to start thinking for ourselves and applying Jesus Words to our thought processes and judgments instead of the words of the government or talk show hosts. Remember both have their own agenda and it’s not the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.
Once the hate starts it becomes easier and easier to hate everything and everyone that is not just like us, does not think, act, talk, look or believe just like us. The hate even spreads to those in our own circle of friends and family. Before long we are looking for excuses to turn someone into an enemy so we can justify our hate.
Why does Jesus tell us to Love?
- so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;
- For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
- If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?
- Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
In a nutshell, Jesus wants us to love because it’s the high road, it’s the high calling, and it’s to be like our Father in heaven. “God is Love” God doesn’t just love His creation HE IS LOVE and when we chose to love our enemies we become “God Like”
When Jesus told his Jewish followers to love their enemies He knew full well that those enemies were sitting at the door waiting for Israel to make a wrong move so they could swoop in and destroy and burn the temple. He also knew that in the future those enemies would be Hitler and Stalin and groups like the “PLO” and “Hamas”. But He still told them to love and to pray for their persecutors.
Love is what makes believers different from the world and yet Christians these days are of some of the best haters around. It’s time we put Jesus words in to action and chose to love our enemies.
Grace and Peace