“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” –Matthew 5:44
It would be so much nicer if Jesus had went with something along the lines of, “Tolerate your enemies. Try not to respond too negatively to those who persecute you. Overreacting will only make the problem worse.”
Nope. Love them. Pray for them. That is what Jesus commanded us to do. Surely he was just overstating this to make a point right? He was just being a bit overdramatic to drive grab people’s attention, wasn’t he? Well…I guess he did also say earlier:
“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” –Matthew 5:39-40
I am starting to think he may actually mean it…
Can we maybe just skip over this part and go back up to the warm and fuzzy beatitudes?
Jesus calls us to demonstrate radical, over the top, illogical, undeserved, unsolicited, unconditional love. Even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. Even when it could potentially work against us. Even when folks are seeking to do us harm.
These are not a couple of verses plucked out of context to push some radical, peaceful, hippie agenda. This was literally at the core of his message.
How are Christians doing at this today? Would folks who don’t know Christ look at Christians and see a group of people living this out?
There are no doubt lots of Christians that are doing an amazing job at this but as a whole, unfortunately, I think most people would say quite the opposite. Far too many Christians spend too much time listening to, watching, or reading political content that pushes the exact opposite agenda and yet claims to be “Christian”. Far too many Christians have actually adopted an “us vs them” doctrine. A doctrine fueled by fear and hate.
Earlier Jesus also said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” –Matthew 5:21-22
Jesus didn’t mince words. He was not subtle. There was no part of his message that was unclear or open for interpretation. He went out of his way to put anger and hated on the same level as murder.
Jesus did not say, “Love your enemies, do not resist an evil person…except in the situation where they could pose a potential threat to national security…or if they are Muslim…or gay…or a little too liberal…you know what, never mind…scratch that first part in general.”
Jesus said, “Love them.”
Jesus knew the transformative power of unconditional love. He knew the power of meeting people exactly where they are, loving them, and being there for them in a time of need.
A heart has never been won over to Christ through hate, bigotry, condemnation, divisiveness, etc. A heart can only be won over with love.
How are we doing at that?
I know that I personally have a long way to go and want to continue to get better at this every single day. It would be amazing to see what would happen if Christians all throughout America wanted to get better at this as well!
Thought to ponder
What outside influences have I allowed to impact the way I view others in a way that is counter to the message of Jesus?