Love Your Enemies

This is the command of the Lord Jesus:  “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27).  Pretty ridiculous, eh?  Indeed, how can anyone do this; how can people love someone who has persecuted, insulted, harmed or hated them?   Jesus is not saying that we should agree with our enemy, nor is He saying that we should like our enemy.  When He says, “Love your enemy,” He is using the Greek word for the deepest form of love—that love which willingly gives oneself on behalf of another. Be willing to give your all, even your life, for your enemy!

There is a saying, “Practice what you preach.”  Jesus preached this strange, seemingly impossible mandate—that we are to love our enemies—but did He practice what He preached?  Let the Apostle Paul answer:  “…when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” (Rom. 5:10a) In an act that betrays His otherworldliness, He loved His enemies (us!) to the point of dying for them!

Consider the second strange command in this sermon of Jesus:  “To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also.”   As Jesus went to the cross, St. Luke records: “And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face…” (Luke 22:64)  This occurred after one of the temple officers backhanded Jesus across the face (John 18:22).  Jesus literally was turning the other cheek, offering his face to striking.  But that wasn’t all, He offered His back to the whip and His head to the crown of thorns. The dignity of Jesus was taken from Him, so that in Him we would be dignified.  He was treated unjustly that in Him we would be given justification.

The sermon of the Christ continues, “And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.”  Our loving Christ would hang on the cross naked, so that His enemies would be clothed with righteousness.  But what happened to his clothes?  They took His garments and divided them into four parts and then they took His tunic and cast lots for it (John 19:23,24).  Jesus was practicing what He preached, and He practiced it uniquely as He made His way to the cross.  They took from Him so that we would now be receivers.  He now gives white robes to those who had been wearing the dirty robes of hatred, evil words, adultery, murder and the like.  “All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal. 3:27)

Finally Jesus commands in this strange sermon:  “Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.”  Jesus allowed evil men to take everything He had.  They took His clothing, they took His dignity and they took His life; all this He gave for His enemies.  Jesus asked for none of it back, for He fully trusted His Father.  They took His life; He trusted that He would rise from the dead.  They took His clothing; He believed He would be clothed with the clouds.  They took His dignity; now He fully reveals that He has the dignity of God Himself, He has the name which is above every name.  The world takes; God restores.

So when we are asked to likewise love our enemies, we rest in knowing this impossible commandment has already been fulfilled in Christ.  Now in Him we can love our enemies, doing good even to those who are against us.  For we, as the sons of the Highest, realize that in the Son of God we too shall rise from the grave, and all that was lost in this life will be restored in a greater way than we can even imagine.