43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:43-47
Many of us know the story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus is answering the question: “Who is my neighbor, really?” But have you ever stopped to think about who your enemy really is?
Through studying this passage I’ve realized that I’ve assumed my enemies are only those who are actively trying to harm me (either physically or emotionally). But that’s a pretty low bar. Sure, I can love a vague enemy but that doesn’t bring it quite home to me. But what if my enemies were those I think of as unlovable? Different? Uncomfortable to be around?
Read through the passage again and note the progression of unlovable people Jesus speaks about: the enemy, the persecutor, the evil doer, the unjust, the tax collectors, “others”, and Gentiles. In our day and age, we might include in that list: homosexuals, homeless, foreigners, anyone with differing political or theological views, etc.
Who do we look at with a negative attitude or judgment in our hearts? Our call is to look at every person as deserving of love. Because that’s Jesus’ posture toward them. Remember, we were once enemies of the cross and while we were still sinners, Christ did the most loving and sacrificial act He could for us: He laid down His life for us (His enemies).
Today, spend some time reflecting on who you would deem your enemies. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a heart of love and compassion toward those who might seem unlovable. Commit to moving toward them in love just as your Savior Jesus Christ did (and does) toward you.
By Ellen Rosenberger