“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Matt 5:43-48
Reading these verses for what is “in” the text in black and white as commands is hard. While it is true, it is incredibly painful and frankly, impossible. It’s ludicrous. Why on earth would we treat people well who mistreat us so badly, and often times, repeatedly?
I’ll be honest and say that I have had some issue with this over some time now. It is hard for me to have love for people who hurt me. My entire life, I would rather be wrong and own up to it than to be falsely accused. It just doesn’t set right with me. I suppose because if I do wrong, I can make it right. To be falsely accused or thought ill of for no reason, there is nothing I can do to “fix” it. That’s a tough horse pill for me to swallow. So what happens? I get angry, and anger grows to bitterness. And I find myself smiling at the thought of them “Thelma and Louise-ing it” off the nearest cliff. Yep. I’m capable.
So this is where I’ve been camped out. Thinking, “Lord, I know I need to love…but serrrriously, You can’t expect me to go there. With this.” Even after a great conference this weekend on love, my heart just keeps shoving this one thing aside. NOPE! Not going there, Lord! Kicking and fighting the whole way through. “Yes, Lord, I know I love grace…but this is beyond grace. This would be a door mat situation…do you really want me to be a door mat?”
Now while I think that there are times when sin just severs relationships as a natural consequence, the call is still to be loving. But how is this kind of love even possible? It goes against everything that is rising up and screaming in my own heart. I can’t read these verses for what they are and do this. Not from a genuine place, anyways. Sure I can fake a smile…and I can pray, but it’s going to be more like “SMITE them, Oh Lord!!!” So how can we do this when it goes against our very nature?
This morning, as I was reading Jesus’ words, I began to ponder the ways in which Jesus fulfilled these commands in his life.
“Love your enemies, bless those who curse you” – Jesus died for us while we were his enemies (Rom 5:8). While getting whipped and lashed by the soldiers His stripes were bringing our healing (Isa 53:5)
“Do good to those who hate you.” -In the garden, when Peter came to Jesus’ defense and lobbed off a soldier’s ear, Jesus healed him. (Luke 22:50-51)
“Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” While hanging on the cross, Jesus prays for his murderers while they are gambling for his clothes and mocking and ridiculing Him. (Luke 23:32-40)
God is kind to people who love Him and people who don’t. To do that as well is to show that we are in fact His children. We are a part of His family. Jesus did the impossible for us and obeyed these commands to the full and purchased us as his brothers and sisters. We have been adopted into the family. God is our good and loving Father, do you see the promises here?
So for me, reading these verses and meditating on Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of each thing just warmed and softened my heart. It made me love Jesus, and helped me to desire to let go of the “rights” that I have in my heart to not be mistreated. It gave me assurance that I am a daughter of a kind and loving Father. And even though I don’t love perfectly like Jesus is asking me to, I know that his love for me does not waver. I know that He knows just how hard and painful this is. He understands and sympathizes with my weakness in this area. That makes me feel safe. I can rest in Jesus’ perfect love, and I can risk loving someone who may or may not love me in return…because I have ultimate love from the Father.