Letting God do the impossible task: to love your enemies

Related image

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.

Love your enemies: Possible or impossible?

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.”

How do we interpret this? Was this a piece of advice or wisdom? Or was it a command? Or was Jesus trying to show us plainly that this was an impossible task for people to follow through?

The challenge in the follow-through might depend on where people are at in their lives. Some people might be very hurt individuals. Their visceral reaction might be: “Screw this! I’m going to wipe them out! Quickly or slowly, nevertheless, painfully!

Another’s reaction might be: “Well, I know it’s hard. I can try. I know I won’t be able to do this but what the heck. I’ll give it a shot and if I fail, I fail. If I can love that x!?@#%!?x#, then I’ll do it. If I try and fail, then what do I have to lose, maybe just eight bloody knuckles that’ll heal up in a few weeks.”

Often we are caught in a dichotomy of two impossible options. We know what Jesus said over 2,000 years ago.  You might say, “But that was for yesterday. Today’s challenges are different.” Well, I beg to differ. There were huge challenges of life and death for early Christians during the Roman Empire– perhaps even impossible challenges to resist the Emperor.

jews halocaust

Even today, anger and hatred still boils in the blood of survivors.  Every generation has its own challenges to love one’s enemies.  The halocaust of Jews during Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  The militaristic Japanese take-over of Asia.  Today’s violent Islamic terrorism of ISIS/ISIL against the non-Muslim world.

We know if we fail this impossible command to love our enemies, it just shows how human we are.  We will have to acknowledge our need for God’s grace.

We also know that if we can manage this, good on me. “I managed to not swear and flip the finger back on someone who called me a !x%$&*.  I simply ignored him.  That made me the better person.”  In this latter case, our need for God’s grace is decreased. We managed to fulfill the law of love.  Okay, that may have been easily accomplished.

But then what about next time? What if a bully were to come after you with a gang of thugs to pulverize you to smithereens? Do I continue to “turn the other cheek” and “give them my other coat”? Where do we draw the line?

Love your enemies-thugs?

More difficult yet.  What if the victim were your own son or daughter this time around? Yes, this makes it an impossible task to “turn the other cheek” and give the gang of rapists and child-molesters your own daughter or son for the taking.

Let’s make it harder…they’ve got a gun to your head.  There are no police around anywhere. You’re in an isolated place.

If possible, most people would be tempted to pull out defensive arms and use it accordingly…without hesitation.

Getting the picture? Seems to me, Jesus saying depends upon the context.

Now then… was Jesus’ saying in Luke 6:27-38 meant to be a word of advice or a command?

I’m of the opinion that Jesus’ saying was meant to be description of our human sinfulness versus a prescription to obey God’s commands.  It’s possible that the entirety of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was meant to be a description of our human incapacity to be perfect human beings.

If this were the case, it forces us to fall upon God for mercy and grace.

If Jesus’ sayings from the Sermon on the Mount were prescriptions (i.e., as laws we are to obey), then we’d all be failures.

I’m of the opinion that we will all inevitably fail as good human beings. Thus, the consequence is that we will all die and end up in dire straits on the Last Day, separated from God, perhaps eternally.

Thankfully, that is not the ultimate destiny. God has given us a way out. The only way out of this predicament is to fall upon the mercy and grace of God.  This is the good news of Jesus Christ.