Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 6:27-28, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” It’s a parallel to Jesus’ sermon on the Mount in Matthew ch. 5-7.
When I think on this, there are days when I might think to myself, “Yes, I can obey Jesus’ law to love my enemies—that’s easy.” But in all honesty, there might be some bad days when I feel I cannot even love my friends or even my family, let alone my enemies.
There can be a real challenge in following through with this command. For some, this might be easier to do depending on the day and on our circumstances. It might depend on where people are at in their lives. For some, our hurts and traumas can easily override our ability to love others. The last thing we can expect someone who has been hurt is to love their perpetrators.
A person’s visceral reaction in anger might be: “I’m going to wipe them out! Give me a rock…give me a button… give me a trigger… At certain times in one’s life, it would not surprise me one bit if a person could do it without shedding a tear or breaking out in a sweat. Jesus’ command seems to stand in stark contrast to the desire of our flesh.
How do we interpret this passage of Scripture? Was this a piece of good advice or nugget of wisdom? Or was it a command? What if the entirety of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Luke and Matthew was meant to describe the impossible? What humanism has wanted to achieve perfection in humanity might actually be next to impossible.
If the latter is true, it forces you and I to turn to God for mercy and grace each and every day. You might see human perfection as a possibility. For me personally, at this point of time in my own life, the possibility of achieving human perfection is impossible.
If Jesus’ sayings from the Sermon on the Mount were meant to be prescriptions of laws that we must obey, then I would definitely be a failure. Over time, we might, at one point or another, fail to live up to most or all of Jesus’ commandments.
When we are in the flesh and operating in the needs and desires of the flesh, it is very hard to love our enemies. Our flesh will naturally want to destroy or defeat our enemies using our human means and methods. Yes even when we are living as Christians, praying hard and committing ourselves each day to live with Christ, this spiritual battle won’t be easy. But when we are operating in the love of Christ, there is less reason to give into the flesh. Jesus asks us to give him all of our worries.
When Jesus asked us to bless those who curse us, it is because there is something that happens in the spiritual realm that we do not see. On the surface, there is nothing to be gained eternally by blessing those who curse us. If this was a command, then what reward would there be?
There is a blessing in simply loving others without expecting to receive anything in return from our fellow neighbor. We can love others just for the sake of loving others. There is no ulterior motive to love our neighbor. This is pure freedom. Christ can free us from the fleshly desires in this world so that we can love the unlovable, do good, and give without expecting anything in return (v.35).
To truly love our enemies who have full intentions of hurting us without mercy is the hardest thing to do in the world. Personally, I know I don’t have the patience or the strength within myself to love my enemy. My human flesh tells me to kill whoever might want me dead. I do not have the tenacity to wait it out to see what happens. To me, this command is like telling me to fail.
After recognizing my human weakness, I realize that I need to fall upon the grace and mercy of God. I would rather hold my hands up and say to the Lord, “Lord, if you are real, give me your grace. I cannot love my enemies. I cannot stop hating them for even one second. Pour out your grace upon my life. Have pity on this poor soul. I need you God.” This would be me after God has driven me to utter submission.