So last time we talked about loving your neighbors, which at times can be hard enough. But what Jesus tells us to do in the 6th chapter of Luke may be even more difficult.
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. -Luke 6:27-28
Why would Jesus say these things. These are people that may be trying to do physical harm to me. These are people that we may despise so much we can’t be in the same room as them. Why are we to love them? How are we to bless them? How can we do good to them? Why should we pray for them?
This is a tough lesson and I myself struggle with the implications of this. So take what I write here with a grain of salt (and forgive the rambling nature of this post), for I’m not completely sure of any of this and only lay it out here to help with my own understanding and discernment.
Now by no means am I or Jesus for that matter, condoning or supporting of terrorism or mass shootings, nor am I arguing against legal consequences of those actions. But, despite that we may think of these people as monsters, we should not pretend that they are not fellow human beings, created in God’s image. And if we take the narrative of the Bible to be true, they are fellow children of God, they are loved by Him.
Let’s look to Jonah
Look back at the story of Jonah. God spoke to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh and preach to them the word of God to repent or be destroyed. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrians who were a cruel and evil people. Jonah didn’t want them to repent, he wanted them to be destroyed. So he got up and ran away.
Most of us know what happens next. He is thrown into the sea and a great fish swallows him where God speaks to him again and Jonah relents and vows to go to Nineveh. He arrives and preaches as he was commanded. The Assyrians hear Jonah and repent, from the lowest all the way to the king. They turned from their ways and God in his great mercy, forgave them and spared them from their destruction.
Well this didn’t make Jonah too happy. He argues with God, saying this is why he didn’t want to come in the first place. He knew God in his great mercy and love would relent if the Assyrians repented. So he storms out of the city, sits on a hill and waits to see what will happen.
God, then shows Jonah who’s boss. He grows a great vine to shade Jonah from the heat, which made Jonah very happy. Next day, God sends a worm to eat into the vine and it withered and died and took away his shade. Jonah, very upset, cries out to God wishing to die and God says to him;
“Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” Jonah said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh…”
See Jonah had great concern about the plant which he had nothing to do with growing or caring for, yet he expected God to not be concerned for the hundreds of thousands of people, created in His own image, whom He loved.
I think God wants us to be vessels of His compassion that He can use to reach a lost and hurting world. God used Jonah for this very purpose. Are we to judge that people don’t deserve the love of God to touch them to the core? Should we withhold good, blessings and prayers for those who hate us?
We are at war!
We are in a war with Satan, not with people. The people that we consider enemies, may just be prisoners of war taken by Satan. The power of God, can easily turn an enemy into a great friend and ally.
This is by no means and easy commandment to keep. Because of our own imperfect and sinful nature, I think it’s impossible to keep without a savior whom died for us even while we were still the enemies of God. Jesus gave up his life for us, even though we were actively fighting against him.
When we pray for our enemies, we are asking God to bless them and make Himself known to them. We are overcoming evil with good and filling our minds with positive thoughts. When we ask God to bless our enemies, God will bring them to a point where blessing is possible. They still have to repent of their sin and get right with God. If they do, we may end up with a repentant sinner and a new brother or sister in Christ. God may just change their lives so that they may resist evil. If your enemy resists God’s blessings and continues to sin, God will have his vengeance in the end.
I also think that while non-violent resistance does work, it only works when God is at the center. Many “peaceful” demonstrators are in the news these days, but many do not have Christ in their hearts and many of these demonstrations are often filled with hate, rhetoric and at times actually incites violence. This I feel is because it’s not done with the commandment of Jesus in mind, to love our enemies. The demonstrations may attempt to be non-violent, but it’s not too show love to their enemies.
I hope that this post gets you into God’s word and researching the implications of this. As I mentioned above, I’m by no means an expert in any of this, but purely throwing out some ideas and welcome some honest and open discussion.