Love for Enemies
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.~ Luke 6:27-36 (NRSV)
Friends, I wonder, what do you do with difficult people? You know, the ones that really irritate you. Well, you can block them on Facebook or unfollow them. You can try to keep your distance, or openly argue and fight with them or you can complain to your friends about them and talk behind their backs, but what should you really do with difficult people?
You know, that person that you see and immediately feel aggravated even before they have said or done anything. Those people who not only disagree with you but who have to be rude and make a scene about it. Or maybe it’s a micro-manager who always tells you what to do and how to do it. Or someone who always points out the things that you do wrong. Perhaps it’s a friend or family member that just knows how to push every one of your buttons at once, sending you into a frenzy of hurt, frustration, and lack of control. Or maybe it’s a bully that always makes you feel inadequate and pushes you to carry out their agenda. Friends, what do we do with difficult people?
Over the last two months, we have been following our “In This House” sermon series and we have learned that In This House: we give grace, we tell the truth, we make mistakes, we say I’m sorry, we have fun, we give hugs, and last week we learned that “In This House: We value ALL Families.” We talked about what it means to value something, and how when we value something, we take care of it. Sometimes we even put our own wants and needs aside, because, in situations like that, it’s not all about us. Remember that part? It’s not all about you and your opinions and comforts; it’s about caring for those around you. Well, this week’s theme is “In This House: We Show Love,” and this week the tables have turned because guess what? This week, it IS all about you.
So, let’s take a look back at our scripture reading for just a minute because, in it, Jesus says: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” That’s not quite the way that we think of reacting, is it? When someone hurts us, loving them is probably the last thing that comes to mind! So how are we supposed to love someone that we don’t even like? Well, that’s where Jesus steps in. Jesus teaches us a new way of being, a way that is very different from the way that we know.
Before we go any further, I think we need to talk about this word “love” because love can be interpreted in many different ways. When you think of the word “love,” what picture comes to mind? Do you picture your partner, or your kids, or your parents? Do you think about Valentine’s Day? About roses and heart-shaped boxes of candy? Do you think about romantic vacations to exotic places? Or gifts of fancy jewelry? Do you think about the movies that you have seen? Or the magic of love’s first kiss? Well if you do, please know that that is not the kind of love that Jesus was talking about. Romantic love is all about emotions, while Christian Love is all about actions. It’s putting our feelings and sentiments aside and doing what is right.
When Jesus talks about “loving your enemies, doing good to those who hate you, blessing those who curse you, and praying for those who abuse you,” Jesus is talking about the fact that how we respond to others not only explains who and whose we are, but it also communicates to others who God is. Our choices and our reactions or non-reactions can defuse or escalate the situation.
Friends, loving our enemies, though it is never easy, is important, but why? In today’s scripture reading, we step in right in the middle of one of Jesus’ sermons. He is talking to the crowds, and more and more people are gathering around because Jesus is just starting his ministry. He is not only teaching people, but people are being healed, and Jesus is showing people a new and different way of life. Crowds gather as he preaches, and in the crowd there are disciples and there are Pharisees. Everyone is interested in what Jesus is saying because he is teaching something new.
And this is what he says: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you.”
So the question that arises is,”Who is our enemy?” Well, Jesus quickly points to attitudes and behaviors. He describes the enemy as one who hates, curses, and abuses. Just as the love that Jesus is referring to is not about emotions but about actions, the enemy that Jesus is referring to is not about personality issues. It’s not about likes and dislikes. It’s not about opinions. It’s ALL about negative conduct.
And how does Jesus handle negative conduct? Does he respond with the same negativity, complaining or gossiping or hurting people in return? No. He continues to teach and to heal by responding in a kind and compassionate way. He says: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Friends, this last line is the hardest part. To be honest many of us don’t truly hear it because, by the time we get to that last line, we’re already thinking about our enemies and the people who irritate us. We focus on the negative, and we too get tied up in the chaos.
That final line, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — when we hear that, we tend to think that means, “Be nice to others so they will be nice to you.” Right? But what about if you are having one of those days when you get up on the wrong side of the bed? You fight with your kids trying to get them to the bus. You spill your coffee on your shirt as your driving to work, and you find out that a deadline that you thought was Friday is actually today. And to top it all off, your coworker called in sick, so you’ll have to do twice the work to keep up.
Basically, by 10 am, you have left a path of destruction because of your frustration. You said things that weren’t very nice to your kids. You snapped at the girl at the front desk who always greets everyone with a smile. You gossiped about your coworker. You complained to just about everyone at work. But, then you see a reminder on your desk that says: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You take a deep breath and think about what you’ve done over the last few hours. How did you treat those around you? Let see. You said things that weren’t very nice to your kids. You snapped at the girl at the front desk. You gossiped about your coworker. You complained to just about everyone at work. Is that how you were hoping everyone else would treat you today? Well, that’s the message that you are sending, remember? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Friends, it’s not easy. So often, our emotions take over and we spin out of control. That’s why Jesus teaches us that Christian love is not about emotions; it’s about actions. It’s about counteracting the negativity in the world instead of adding to it. It’s about loving the people that you don’t even like, not because of what they have said and done, but because that’s the way YOU want to be treated.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, remember that it IS all about you and how you react to the world around you. No matter how others treat you, it’s up to you to decide how you are going to react. If you’ve been hurt, are you going to continue the cycle, or are you going to counteract the negativity with love? Folks, it is not easy because the way of the world and the way of Jesus are two very different ways. But if we long for healing and wholeness, rather than brokenness and hurt in the world, then the answer is clear. And that’s why “In This House: We Show Love!”
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!