[Jesus said,] “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Mt. 5:44-45)
Of all Jesus’ teachings, this is perhaps the most surprising, radical and difficult. Loving our friends is somethings we understand and naturally do. But loving our enemies cuts against the grain. And Jesus does not let us off the hook by allowing us to love our enemies with a different kind of love than we have for our friends. In both cases, Jesus uses the word for sacrificial love.
Sacrificial love is not something that we feel. Sacrificial love is a commitment that we make. Parents and married couples know this. But what does sacrificial love look like without a familial or spousal bond for a foundation? It looks like Jesus hanging on a cross, looking at those who put Him there and praying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Even as He said this, Jesus was suffering the consequences of His executioners’ sin and paying the price for that sin to be forgiven.
So it is with us. Our enemies hurt us and we suffer the consequences of their hatred. But we know the unconditional love and acceptance of God. For we are the forgiven executioners of Jesus. It was our sins that put Him on that cross. But now those sins are gone, paid for in full by Jesus.
So we love our enemies and we want what is best for them. The best for our enemies is not anger, retribution or revenge. The best for our enemies is for them to meet the King of love, Jesus.
We are His ambassadors. So we lay our enemy-fighting weapons down and we rest in the sacrificial love of Jesus. He helps us to do what we cannot: love our enemies as they need to be loved.
By sharing sacrificial love indiscriminately and not playing favourites with our friends, our lives are aligned with the heart of our heavenly Father Who does the same thing.
Our friends and our enemies share many common characteristics and needs. Both groups consist of broken sinners who needs God’s unconditional love. The only difference between the two groups is one likes us and the other does not.
God already loves both groups unconditionally. He is the wellspring of all such love. When we give love away, it never runs out. More flows into us from God to fill and expand the space that was left behind.
The love that our enemies (and friends) need is not our own. It belongs to God. So we love with the same love that He has first given to us.
Dear Jesus, please help me to love my enemies and my friends with your unconditional, sacrificial love. Amen.