If You Think Loving Your Enemies is Easy, You Aren't Doing It Right
Commentary on Luke 6:27-36 "How to Love Your Enemies".
What does loving Your enemies really mean?
(Yeah, this happened...) I sat down to write about this section of Luke 6, I opened up my Bible and saw the title “Love Your Enemies”.
And, I actually thought to myself, “Whew! This one will be easy. I’ve totally got the “loving my enemies” thing all down. I can’t even think of anyone I hate.”
Turns out, I had a lot to learn!
When Jesus said to love our enemies, the word he used was “agape”. It was not a classical Greek word. It was only found in religion. BECAUSE IT’S NOT NATURAL! The word agape means an act of the will. It is a decision to do what is in the best interest of the other person. It is not based on feelings, it is completely an action.
There isn’t a single English word that captures the full meaning of “agape”. The King James Version used the word “charity” because that more accurately describes the active part of it. But as language changed, “charity” came to represent more of the idea of pity so translators began to use “love” to mean “agape”.
I thought that Not Hating my Enemies was good enough
Even though I knew the definition of love, I let myself be lulled into a sense of complacency about the whole "loving your enemies" thing.
I’m really quite amazing at not hating people. As a matter of fact, when I think of the person who has caused the most hurt to my family, I feel completely sorry for him. I know that he has ruined his own life with the terrible decisions that he is making and the anger which controls him. Other than him, there isn’t a single person that I even struggle with any ill feelings towards.
It actually took a lot for me to get to this point. I feel like I've forgiven as much as I am supposed to and I don't sit around stewing about hating anyone. I went back to the passage looking for something to write on and wondering if I was really living up the mark...(and only kinda wanting to know the answer!)
I spent my entire week obsessing on Luke 6:29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. I really wanted to find something else to complain about church people for missing.
I studied the debate over what exactly Jesus meant about “turning the other cheek.” Was it more Ghandi-like or more Rocky Balboa-ish? Was it passive defiance or in-your-face, “you better look me in the eye when you dis me”? I eventually realized that the exact cultural meaning of the reference may never be known, but the essence of what Jesus was teaching was to "give more than expected."
Give more than expected, I can do that! I was happy to learn a challenging truth that I could apply to my life. But I was just getting started...
Indifference towards our enemies is nowhere close to loving them
As I tried to write about this passage, nothing was coming to me. I knew that I was missing something. I didn't actually want to change or grow. Honestly, I just wanted to write an amazing blog post.
As I sat there in silence, praying and looking at a blank screen, I heard my own annoying words come back to me
“The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.”
This hit me like a ton of annoying bricks that I did NOT want to deal with!
After 20 some years of informally counseling young couples, I absolutely know the truth of this saying. Show me a couple yelling at each other and I see hope. People yell because they are angry and have been hurt by someone they respect and care for.
However, when people check out of a relationship, they become indifferent. An indifferent person no longer cares at all. An indifferent wife could be called names by her husband, he could cheat, he could cry, nothing he did would affect her. She no longer cares enough to hate. She no longer sees him as a fellow human worthy of empathy, compassion, anger, time, anything.
This truth hit me hard:
Jesus called us to show actual love and concern for our enemies
Jesus didn’t leave any room for my pitiful, pansy interpretation of what "loving your enemies" meant.
In Luke 6: 27-36, Jesus was speaking to Jews who had been conquered by Rome. They were longing for a Messiah to free them from Rome. They believed that God had called them to set up his Kingdom on earth through the nation of Israel. Thus, the Romans were specifically viewed as “God’s enemy”.
Let this sink in a little bit. The Romans were political enemies, culturally they were extremely different, religiously they were immoral pagans worshiping many gods and observing none of the Jewish rules. In addition, they were powerful, cruel, often wealthy, often elitist, overseers.
These were the clear Jewish "enemies" and they were the people he was directly calling his followers to show love to in this passage of Luke.
Jesus obviously knew how hard this call to love our enemies would be for his Jewish audience to hear and for all his future thick-headed followers as well. We all want to dismiss this one. If you say that you don’t, then you probably aren’t really comprehending what it says.
Jesus was calling his followers to actively seek good things for people who hate us!
That's in an entirely different realm from "not hating" and I definitely need God's help if I'm going to learn how to love my enemies like that!
Who are the enemies that you are supposed to love?
We don't really like to say that we hate people and we don't think people hate us. (except on social media)
Think about the people who make your life uncomfortable. People who disagree with you on politics. People who try to use you. People who mistreat you. People who hurt you. People you feel indifferent towards. People whose morals are far from yours. People who actively fight against your traditions. People who reject your values, lifestyle, and culture. People who are just plain annoying.
Those people who when you are getting real with the ones closest to you, when you are sitting around your kitchen table and all guards are down, all religious pretense is gone, the people you "don't give a f@ck about". Turns out: Yup! Those are your "enemies".
Those are the people who Jesus wants you to love.
How do I love my enemies?
If you are like me, it's hard to actually even picture this kind of loving our enemies.
By love, Jesus doesn’t mean something as lame as “not hating” or as idiotic as faking friendship, he means go out and actively seek to make their lives better. He defined it in Luke 6:27-36 this way:
Luke 6: 27 Do good to those who hate you.
This is an action. It’s not an attitude you can work on from a distance. You have to actually engage with the person who hates you and do something to make their life better.
Luke 6:28 Bless those who curse you.
This is a lot more than that thing we do when people sneeze! Blessing someone means using our words to speak good into their lives. It means speaking positively about them, to them, and for them. It means encouraging and not slandering.
Luke 6:28 Pray for those who mistreat you.
Once again, I thought I had this one! But the word used for prayer here means “supplication” and it is more about praying for God to give things to the person. Praying on their behalf for blessings. Not praying for God to change them, smite them, give them the flu, etc… (which are the prayers I’m good at!)
Luke 6:30 Give to everyone who asks you
Minister to people. Get involved in their lives and help them with whatever they are struggling with.
Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you–
Part of doing to others as you would have them do to you is changing our attitude towards others. You know how we always justify our own actions? We should apply that same kind of grace to others. If we get that down, physical acts like being kind and helpful will be much easier.
Loving our enemies is not supposed to be easy or natural
In the final verses of this section, Jesus completely pulls the rug out from under me. I feel a lot of conviction from this whole section of Luke. This loving our enemies is pretty tough stuff for anyone to truly live out.
In order to calm this discomfort from seeing my true ugly nature, I scramble for excuses: I love a lot of people. I give to a lot of people. Tons of people at church tell me I’m awesome. I think of all the good things I do…
Luke 6: 32 But Jesus said, “If you love people who love you, what credit is that to you?”
It's easy to think of all the people that we show love to and feel like we are good people. But everyone enjoys being around people who love them. That doesn't take God working in our lives, that's just the normal human experience for us all.
Luke 6:33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?
It's natural to do good to people who are going to be appreciative and somehow reward us, even if it's just with gratitude and the warm fuzzies. It takes God working in us to do good for people who aren't going to give us anything in return (unless it's grief!).
Luke 6: 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?
In Jesus’ day, there were no banks and there was no welfare. When people had debt, they had to go to wealthy individuals to borrow money. Then they worked out repayment systems where the debtor was at the mercy of the lender. Jesus said lending like this was not an act of service that got you any special credit with God.
It takes a lot of God working in us to completely love our enemies with no agenda for ourselves!
The Basic Principle on How to Love Your Enemies
When we truly understand what God has offered us by overlooking all of our shortcomings and allowing us to be his beloved children, we should earnestly desire to share that same kind of love and acceptance with others. We should love people who don't "deserve" our love. We should love people who we don't naturally like. That love should be demonstrated in actions that serve the other person's best interest and not ours.
Loving our enemies reflects God's heart for humanity
Luke 6:35-36 Do all of these things, and your reward will be great, and you will children of the Most High because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
If I do the things Jesus taught in this passage, I will be his daughter. I will reflect him because he is kind to people who are ungrateful and wicked. If I want to accurately represent him, I need to be merciful, just as he is.
It is laughable that I started writing this commentary and thought I had this down!
My prayer for us all to learn to love our enemies
Lord, help me! I’m so far from living this out. I’m not even sure that I really want to. But I love you and I want people to know you. I want to be vulnerable with you and others. I want to depend on you to heal the hurt I experience in this world instead of burying it and becoming bitter towards people. I want to go beyond not hating my enemies. I want to love like you taught. I’m not sure I can. I’m not completely sure what that will even look like. I want to try. I need your help. Thank you for showing me a glimpse of this. Make me strong enough to live it.
Please connect with me and share your thoughts. This is hard stuff. If you don’t think so, maybe you didn’t read it right! I could definitely use some accountability in my life on this one.
Blessings my friends!
Thanks for reading, SHARING, and responding!
Looks like the next passage is on Judging Others. I know I have that one down! I’m so good at judging people!