Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He never said, “Get in bed with them.” I understand the provocative nature of what I just said, but the fact is, it’s the truth. It is not only possible, but very important that we come to accept, understand and properly apply this commandment.
Jesus clearly demonstrated God’s boundless love for everyone, but while proving that it can be done, Jesus lovingly and compassionately communicated with a Pharisee and a prostitute in the same setting. He compromised with neither, while manifesting God’s love and speaking truth. Jesus never implied that we are to compromise with or agree with those who oppose God’s word, His truth, or the principles He has clearly set forth.
I think it is wise to ask how we identify the enemies we are commanded to love. First, let me state very firmly: we don’t choose enemies, but we do recognize them. We don’t try to make enemies; we detect who they are by their expressions and their actions. In reality, they choose to be our enemies and oppose what we so obviously believe. What I am referring to is more than a personality conflict. It is important to understand that people should be able to discuss, debate, and even disagree without branding each other as enemies.
As Christians, those who seek to follow Christ, trusting Him as Lord, understand that truth divides. Perfect love walked on earth only once and sinful man nailed that love to a cross. We should not be surprised when those who stand boldly for the truth meet fierce opposition. If they did it to Him, they will do it to us. It is my desire, however, to help all readers understand that we are not called to go make enemies. We are called to be salt and light in order to make a difference. One way we make a difference is by loving with God’s agape love those who hate.
Jesus’ great love for sinners brought harsh accusation from religious zealots and everyone who had made a god of something they believed rather than actually knowing God and His truth. This has been true throughout history. And please remember, truth withstands debate and assault. It is like a lion. Release it and it will defend itself! So while standing for truth and speaking it in love, we must expect enemies to emerge. When they do, we should respond by continually speaking the truth in love, but never wavering.
When God tells us to make peace with our opponents, to confront those with whom we disagree and seek to reach an understanding, He is not asking us to agree with wrongdoers or wrong doing. Rather as the apostle Paul said, as far as we are concerned we should “be at peace with all men,” but he also rebuked Simon Peter to his face. Correction is actually a demonstration of love. I can honestly say that I love those who live with a clenched fist in the face of God, live for the gratification of their own appetites, who claim to be atheists, who live addicted and defeated, but I do not have to join them on their deceptive and destructive journey.
If a person is headed for destruction as a misguided traveler might be headed for a collapsed bridge or unknown canyon, I would do everything within my power to redirect them and to stop them from the certain catastrophic consequences on their present course. I would do this as surely as I would try to save someone from a burning house. Get them to safety! Truth, God’s Word and His presence are a shelter from every storm, a shield from the assault of the enemy and Jesus is the only way to salvation, security and eternal life.
As C.S. Lewis said, “Jesus is either liar, lunatic or lord.” I know him to be the Lord who loves everyone, including His enemies.Regardless of all the opposition on this planet, Jesus is not only the “exact representation of God’s nature,” He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except by Him.” I didn’t make this statement; I am quoting the person who made it in absolute terms. This has become a very volatile statement in today’s world and many choose to make themselves an enemy, an accuser and release vicious anger toward anyone who quotes Jesus. They don’t really have a problem with those who profess to believe Jesus to be who He said He is, they actually have a problem with Jesus. I am not angry at those who disagree or who don’t accept Him, I love them. I am not angry with those who refuse to accept God’s truth. I am angry about the consequences of walking in our own light rather than God’s light. I am saddened that so many continually stumble, when He has offered to be a light unto our path.
You might ask, “James, how can you tell if it is God‘s Spirit controlling us when we deal with enemies and opponents of biblical truth or even the principles that made our nation great?” I believe you can discern the spirit controlling your life and individuals by asking, “Is it a spirit of redemption moving me or is it a spirit of destruction? Are your deepest desires to see everyone blessed and benefited by what you can share, or do you want to in some way bludgeon them, damage them, or destroy them? Are you tempted even as the Pharisees to use the Bible to beat them up or beat them down?” It is a sad fact that this happens too often. Remember, those Jesus rebuked in the strongest terms were the religious zealots of His day. They were actually “practicing the traditions of men rather than the commandments of God,” and they were “honoring God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him.” Jesus said they didn’t even know Him or God the Father!
There are many religious people who are very committed (and yes, zealous for their beliefs) who do not actually know Jesus. Keep in mind that when we know Him and we love Him with all our heart, we will love others and we will be more sensitive to those around us, but we will not compromise. Yes, we will render unto “Caesar what is Caesar’s,” but we will never render unto Caesar or anyone what is God’s! I know these are strong words I am sharing, but these are the words of Jesus. The issue for us is to understand and practice them.
Let me give you one instance of how I appreciate critics and those who seem to be enemies. I see them as honing mechanisms. Proverbs tells us that “iron sharpens iron.” You can’t sharpen iron with chalk so it takes a strong force to hone a keen edge. I see my critics as opportunities for me to become a keener cutting edge for the glory of God. We can all become silver tried in the fire, or stronger like tempered steel. I can love those who have chosen to be my enemies because they will not only drive me to my knees, but continually drive me to God! He alone is my sufficient strength, and He alone can give me the grace to love those who attack, accuse, misunderstand or even misrepresent what I am saying.
Please join Betty and me on our journey learning to live in His love while freely and effectively expressing it to everyone including very real enemies.