Jesus said to love our enemies, right? Technically that’s correct. But when it is said this way, it seems rather abstract. It applies to who exactly? When it’s said this way, it sounds more like a collective effort, doesn’t it?
Here’s what Matthew 5:44 has Jesus saying:
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
That’s a little different. It’s a direct command to you and to me. It’s like Jesus yelling from across the room – “Hey you! Yeah, you! I’m talking to you! Don’t ignore me. Don’t pretend you can’t hear me. You heard me loud and clear. Love your enemies. Yes, I know it sucks. Do it anyway. Now!”
This command to love our enemies may be the most difficult command that Jesus gave because it is costly. It requires a great deal from us without any guarantee or reward. In fact, the chances are pretty good that our enemies will see what we do as a weakness and use any opening to come after us. Hence, that’s why an enemy is called an enemy.
But, you know, enemies didn’t start off that way. Being an enemy takes time. It takes a series of events, decisions, statements directed at the other. Making someone an enemy is based on a series of broken trust strung together over time.
When Jesus tells us to love our enemy, it requires us to see our enemy differently. It requires us to find something decent about our enemy – something human. It requires us to find something that connects us to our enemy, not something that pushes us away and separates us.
Our enemies are connected to us in ways that we would rather not think about. Our enemies are related to us. Loving our enemies takes great effort and energy. Loving our enemies means seeing our survival lined to theirs. Loving our enemies forces us to see them as us and vice versa. To love our enemies is to recognize their humanity, dignity, and the respect they deserve as being Children of God, just like us.
To love our enemies means to give what is unearned and may not be deserved – and usually before anything is offered in advance. To love our enemies is to be vulnerable. It is dangerous. It is subversive. Loving our enemies risks everything. It requires us to take the first step.
Most importantly, loving our enemies requires me to admit that I have enemies and that I am broken. I can’t do it on my own.
When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he’s not saying it to be nice. He’s saying it because loving our enemies changes everything. Because of sin – things that separate us from God – we are God’s enemies. Yet it is God who loves us anyway – God loves God’s enemies. And because God loves us, we are called on to follow in God’s footsteps.