It has been a while since I have written. That has been a combination of two things. The first is a health issue that seems to be resolved. The second, and most important one, was the difficulty of coming up with anything to say on this topic. I can’t imagine how many words have been written attempting to explain what Jesus says.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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 do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 ESV)
Jesus had enemies. There were people who were plotting to end His life. He did not avoid them, but instead often traveled to Jerusalem, their center of power. This is what happens when you practice a life of truth and grace. Truth often hurts. The motive of the person speaking truth into our lives doesn’t seem to reduce that pain, at least not much. Here at the core of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus call us to be just like our heavenly Father and to be completely like Him we must love our enemies. This teaching is made more challenging by the fact that Jesus does exactly what He calls us to do.
With Jesus other commands we might find some wiggle room. We have no idea how Jesus responded to lust. We see how He treated women and that is helpful, but we can’t get inside His head or heart to see what is really going on. We know He was tempted just like we are, but only get clues as to how He resisted those temptations. When it comes to loving enemies we don’t have to wonder. We have details about this and that is the challenge.
One of the definitions I found for the Greek behind the word love is to be full of good-will and exhibit the same. The Greek word agape is hard to define and would be impossible to understand as Jesus uses it without the cross. This is the example that defines the attitude and action that Jesus commands of us.
This single concept establishes the context for the rest of the Sermon on the Mount and for what it means to be disciples of Jesus or children of the Father.
One of the things I’m still processing is that this instruction from Jesus is addressed to a group. The verbs are all plural. Each of the “you” words could be translated “you all”. I’m sure Jesus wants us as individuals to love our enemies. What seems clear from the verbs He chooses is that He wants us to do this as a together thing. Maybe we have to do it as a together thing. On our own we don’t have the courage or compassion to do what Jesus asks.
The early church had enemies. The response that they made toward their enemies was consistent with Jesus’ example and so visibly different that the world was turned upside down. Who are our enemies? What can we do to love them?