Today's Word of Encouragement

Love Your Enemy

Sunday, June 21, 2020

    You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy' (Matthew 5:43).

     A neighbor is someone who lives nigh or nearby (nigh-bor). Biblically, it refers to someone who is near to us because of kindness and friendship. This is its meaning here (see Luke 10:36).
     Jesus affirmed there are two great commandments that sum up the Law of God, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).
     Nowhere in Scripture are we told to hate our enemy (one who hates you, adversary, foe). In fact, the reverse is true. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus reinforced this principle in His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
     To hate one’s enemy was an inference drawn by the Jewish Rabbis. They believed if a Jew was to love his neighbor, then he must of course hate his enemy. They had completely rejected the Law of Love which required them to love both.
     The Talmud (‘study’ or ‘learning’; a large collection of Rabbinical teaching containing a full account of the civil and religious laws and traditions of the Jews from A.D. 200 to today) says nothing of loving one’s enemies. The Jews looked on members of the same tribe as neighbors, but they hated the Samaritans who were half Jews and lived between Judea and Galilee.
     Paul, in Romans 12:20 quoted Proverbs 25:22 to encourage Christians to treat their enemies with kindness - If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.
     Jesus taught His disciples to pray for their enemies, But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:27-28). He did so Himself, even when He was being crucified, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments (Luke 23:34).
     As Christians, we need to be cautious who we listen to and the things we hear. The opinions of others may not be consistent with the teachings of Scripture. While it may be popular, even acceptable to ‘hate’ others who are discourteous or pose a threat to us, it is not a principle established in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Loving those who don’t love you can be extremely difficult, but it is what our Lord would have His people do.
     “Father, showing kindness to our enemies is a difficult, rare, and unpopular activity in modern cultures. But it is a lifestyle You have called us to emulate. I confess I cannot express love and kindness toward those who dislike me unless Your Holy Spirit loves them through me. Enlarge my capacity to love those who hate me and thereby enable Your Holy Spirit to draw them to Jesus Christ and His salvation. Amen.”


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