Loving Our Enemies The Way Jesus Did

Loving Our Enemies The Way Jesus Did

Calvin Lashway

November  2010

All of us have dealt with enemies at some time in our lives, people who don't like us, and want to hurt us. Whether a school yard bully, a friend who betrays us, a fellow employee trying to make us look bad to the boss, or a business competitor who will do anything to put us out of business. We can even have enemies that don't even know us; they just hated us because of our race or nationality. As Christians how are we to respond to our enemies? According to Jesus, we must love them!

In the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49)1, Jesus taught us how to love our enemies: "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36 All scriptures quoted are from the English Standard Version).

Jesus shows us that we must love our enemies by reaching out and giving to them, not retaliating and hurting them:   *We love our enemies by doing good to those who hate us (verses 27, 35).

*We love our enemies by blessing and praying for those who curse and abuse us (verse 28).

*We love our enemies by refusing to retaliate against them for the wrongs done to us (verse 29).

*We love our enemies by giving to them in their time of need, while expecting nothing in return (verses 30, 35).
*We love our enemies by treating them the same way we would like others to treat us (verse 31).
*We love our enemies by loving those who don't love us. By doing good to those who don't do good to us. By lending to those who won’t lend to us (verses 32-34).
*If we love our enemies we "will be sons of the Most High," for God "is kind to the ungrateful and the evil" (verse 35).
*Jesus summarizes His teaching on loving our enemies when he tells us to; "be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (verse 36).

Living the Words He Preached
Jesus lived the words He preached. His final hours of life give us an example of how we should treat our enemies. Jesus' response was to love those involved in His arrest and execution.

The apostle John records that just before Jesus’ last Passover, He “loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). This included Judas His betrayer. During the Passover meal, Jesus got up and washed the disciples’ feet, including Judas’ (verses 2-19). Washing someone else’s feet was the act of a servant. For Jesus this was an act of loving service to Judas, and all the disciples. Later that night when Judas betrays Jesus to the religious authorities, Jesus doesn’t denounce Judas or call him a traitor. Instead, He calls Judas His friend (Matthew 26:47-50). Jesus loved Judas to the end.

During Jesus’ arrest, Peter draws a sword, striking one of the men trying to arrest Jesus. How does Jesus respond? Does He encourage Peter to keep on swinging? Does He let the wounded man suffer and bleed? No. He heals the man and rebukes Peter for using violence (Matthew 26:51-52; Luke 22:47-51; John 18:10-11). Jesus loved His enemies.

During His crucifixion, Jesus doesn’t denounce and revile his executioners. Instead He asks God to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Later while hanging on the cross, not only do the onlookers taunt and ridicule Jesus, but also two thieves crucified with Him. At some point during the day, one of the thieves stops insulting Jesus. He even rebukes the other thief who keeps on taunting Jesus. The first thief recognizes that he and the other thief deserve what they are getting. He seeks Jesus’ mercy, asking to be in the kingdom with Him. How does Jesus react to this man’s “deathbed repentance”? Does Jesus ignore the thief, seeking to get even for his abusive words? Does Jesus call him a sinner who is getting what he deserves? Jesus responds to the thief by saying that yes, he will be with Jesus in paradise (Matthew 27:38-44; Mark 15:27-32; Luke 23:32-33, 39-43).

Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Plain with these words: "Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:46-49). In this sermon one of the issues Jesus addresses is, loving our enemies. When we hear and obey Jesus' words to lover our enemies, then we are building our spiritual house on a sure foundation. But if we refuse to love our enemies, then we are building our spiritual house on a faulty foundation. One day our house will collapse, and its ruin will be great.

1. The Sermon on the Plain is similar, but shorter then the more famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus delivered this sermon on a plain (Luke 6:17), whereas He delivered the Sermon on the Mount on a mountain (Matthew 5:1).

© Calvin Lashway 2019  -  Contact: cinfowritings@gmail.com