It’s easier (and harder) than you think…
The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6:27-36 ESV
Love Your Enemies
27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.
31 And as you wish that others would to do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expect nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
I included the whole passage from The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6:27-36 (EVS) to present to you the full words Jesus spoke about love to the crowds that day. There is no ambiguity here. Love all, even those that you wish not to love.
Love thy neighbor. Love thy spouse and children. Love thy family and friends. (Cough) But love thy enemy? Yeah, I don’t think so. What the heck does that even mean? How can you put into practice an emotional state that is born from a set of responses caused by positive circumstances, when enemies cause us to genuinely feel the opposite of that? Anger. Fear. Repulsion. Revenge. Hate. But love? Seems impossible.
Of all the concepts and practices of a Christian life, this is the most difficult for me. I was born a hothead with a short fuse. I can go 0-60 in an instant when wronged or witnessing the same on others. I truly struggle with this. Ironically, when the s—t hits the fan, I’m as calm as a Taoist Monk. The battle is with my hardwired negative trigger for instances when I am face-to-face with an adversary. This is not proper behavior for a Pastor. Yes, we have common emotions too, every one of us.
The Apostle Peter was a notorious hothead, as was the Apostle Paul. They had to rewire their brains and hearts to see just about everything differently after Jesus. Even Jesus experienced anger and expressed it. When he walked into the temple and saw the money handlers doing business in “Gods House”, he raged and turned over all the tables, truly a very human response. The confusing part for us is how Jesus was genuinely angry and yet never lost his all-powerful love at the same time.
We tend to have an “all in” account of our emotions. We feel one thing or the other, but not simultaneous emotions. Or do we? A mother can be angry at her child and full of love for the child. The same goes for many of our close relationships. We recognize the compartmentalization of our emotional states, as well as, the hierarchy. Love is the highest state of being, with anger (hopefully) being a temporary state. We learn to shapeshift in and out and through these complex emotional states of being. Can it be any different with strangers? Sometimes, we feel a sort of love for people we don’t know but perceive to like, like some celebrities. We can also feel genuine anger and hate for people we’ve never met.
So, what is the practical way to apply “Love thy Enemy”? It begins with understanding what that means. How do you love someone you don’t know? How do you love someone you are averse to? First know that it’s not a specific kind of love like that you might have for an individual, like a lover or child, which doesn’t mean that it is generic or less than, either. It is an entire state of being where one feels love for everything. You are the love, and the Christian rule is, don’t hide it or portion it out.
Think of yourself as a “love factory”, with an endless production of love that anyone can have. It’s for free, as much as anyone could want, and always available. They may reject it, but you offer it anyway. They may attack it, but you offer it anyway. It’s not external actions that produce this love, you have it available all the time because it’s your constitution, even when you are in your own state of negative emotions, even in the extreme situation when faced with the enemy.
God has given us all the ability to live in multiple states of being, but the Christian goal is to live as close to a state of love as possible. Conversely, the enemy wants us to be in a state of constant anger and hate, even going so far as making us feel good when we are in that state.
The practice of love leads to the ultimate state of Godly being, i.e. compassionate, merciful and kind. That is where the magic of Gods connection happens. When you achieve this state in yourself you unlock a hidden universe of the most exceptional energy, more powerful than any.
It falls on spiritual teachers to attempt to teach these principles with the hope of it manifesting in as many individuals as possible, even our enemies. But I don’t know if it can be taught. It can only be experienced, and at the heart of what Jesus said, just give it away – to everyone!
When you give your love to everyone, you will influence those around you. We’re reliant too much on words to communicate. In this case, forget the words and just let it “flow” out of you. Even your enemy will feel it, and you just might be surprised how it affects them. Think of it more as “living in a state of love” wherever you go, and not allowing anything to break it.
Which is one of the final points of Jesus’ life, and second only to the Resurrection. When everyone turned on him and tortured him in horrific ways, humiliated him before his people and before God, the one thing he held onto that the real enemy could not break, was his love for all of us.
“32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” – Luke 23:32-34 ESV
Jesus didn’t tell us to be weak, submissive and complacent to evil. No, quite the opposite of it. He said, be strong, with your Gods love flowing through you. Stand up to evil and say, “You cannot break me.”
That is how you love your God and your enemies.