“I love my enemies!” the little tyke piped up. “You what?” asked her mother. “I love my enemies!” she repeated. This, from a scene my daughter once recounted about her family’s devotional time.
“Who are your enemies?” they asked, fairly certain she had none. And had not even the vaguest idea what it meant. “My nonni!” the 4-year old replied with satisfaction. Convinced that enemies was simply the English word for nonni, or grandparents in Italian. (Oh the problems of Third Culture Kids!)
It certainly would be odd for a 4-year old to already have enemies.
Actually, it’s very sad that any of us should have them, or that someone would want to behave as an enemy. But the troubled family situations, broken friendships, war, and conflict all around us, prove that many prefer discord to peace.
As Christ followers, we should always strive for peace.
But the problem is that not everyone lives with this intention. And we end up with unwanted enemies. Which is why it’s important to know what God’s Word has to say about enemies. And, most importantly, what we should do about them.
But what should we do if the other person does not want peace?
We find a key in remembering that Christ said HIS command to love one another was a new commandment.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another, (John 13:34).
It probably seemed strange to the disciples that he called it a new commandment. For God had commanded them in Leviticus to love their neighbors. And Christ himself had already told them to love even their enemies.
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,’ (Matthew 5:43-44).
SO WHY NEW?
Because their Jewish leaders had changed it to, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” (Matthew 5:43). And with their hard hearts, they were ready to stone any enemy.
So Christ told them a new way: love others as I have loved you.
Not that our love could ever equal God’s. But we can show the same kind of love. And in fact, we often think, “Yes, that’s what I’d like to do!” So we try but fail, because we love in our human way.
Because Christ’s sacrificial love has victorious power, as in the following story.
A lady brought a little ragged orphan girl to her house for a playmate for her three daughters. But the little thing would venture no further than the lobby, where she sat crying as if her heart would break. The lady said to her daughters there was one secret of four letters she thought would win the little one. The eldest girl tried her doll, the second her new muff, but still the little stranger kept on weeping.
At length the youngest sister ran into the lobby, sat down beside her, began to weep with her, and then put her arms about her neck and kissed her, till at last she easily got her into the room; and then it was found that the secret was love, (The Biblical Illustrator; in the Public Domain).
God loved us, even while we were still his enemies. He also came down to our level, embracing us dirt, rags, and all. He weeps with us, and gives us his kiss of grace and forgiveness, conquering our fear, despair, and hatred.
And this is the love our enemies need.
Their hateful actions have made them dirty and ragged. And they don’t deserve forgiveness. Maybe they’re not even sorry for what they did. But loving with Christ’s love means going to them anyway. It means taking them in our arms, dirt and all, showing them love and friendship.
Perhaps, like that little orphan girl, they’ll decide to come into the room of our friendship. And perhaps not. But at least we will be able to honestly say: “I love my enemies — and I show it!”
The Lord can teach us not only how to forgive, but to conquer with his victorious love!