For example…if you killed one of your neighbor’s oxen, he would kill one of yours. If you caused an accident where a co worker lost a hand, law would say that the penalty was for you to also lose a hand. Eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth. There were other laws that dealt with the topic of love as well. They were told to love their neighbor, but not their enemy. Actually, hating their enemy was totally acceptable. After all, for them to be your enemy meant that they were an enemy to God, because Hey, we’re God’s chosen people. Right? And here, in the middle of a multitude of Jews, one of them…a rabbi…stands up and says, “But I say to you…”
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES! Pray for their success…their good. Actually, I want you to go as far as to bless them!” You can feel the collective gasp, can’t you? The mental list of names, faces and past experiences starts flooding into your thoughts. You remember when Billy bullied you on the playground in elementary. It cuts deep into the memory and emotion of a past abuse or current betrayal. This past Sunday at Highway Community Church in Boulder, I titled the message, “Are You Serious?” That’s what I feel our typical response of this command is. Doubt that we are really supposed to or even need to for that matter. Yeah, we know that Jesus said forgiving others opens up the possibilities for us to receive forgiveness from God, but…ARE YOU SERIOUS? Love my enemy? Him? Them? YES.
And I get it. It’s hard to love our enemies, because when we do, we feel like we’re letting them get away with what they did to us. Right? In Romans 12:19 NASB Paul writes to his spiritual brothers and sisters and says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”
“But, I’ve got to take care of this…I’ve got to make them pay…Right has to be done.” Nope. Jesus is telling you that it’s not your job. Hand over to God the need for revenge. You have to let God handle it. He is big enough to carry it. And when you do, you will actually step into a new level of freedom! Bitterness will lose it’s ground in your heart. And don’t worry, ALL sin carries with it a penalty. Either handled on the cross if they repent or in hell for those who don’t…and you cannot improve upon either of those punishments. So make an intentional decision today to love your enemy. Be willing to extend the mercy and forgiveness you have been given by God to those who have wronged you. After all, while hanging on the cross, didn’t Jesus say, “Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do”? Yep, I guess He was serious!