The Way: Friends and Frenemies

Matthew 5:43-48

Being a follower of Christ can get pretty weird.  As we read through scripture we find that we are made strong in our weaknesses, we must die to ourselves if we are to really live, and we are to be thankful for the suffering that we encounter in our lives.  On top of this we are told to love our enemies and those who persecute us.  If you can’t hate your enemies, then who can you hate?

It turns out the answer is no one.  As followers of Christ we are called to love those who love us and those who hate us.  We are called to pray for those who persecute us even as they seek out our demise.

I don’t know that I really have any enemies personally.  There are people who bother me and people who I do not like to be around.  I suppose that if I am to love my enemies, I must obviously love those who I don’t get along well with.  Perhaps you have some enemies, people who have hurt you or who are seeking to do you harm either physically or emotionally.  Jesus makes it pretty clear that we are supposed to demonstrate love for them if we are to truly be seeking after the will of God.

To illustrate why even our enemies are worthy of our concern Jesus gives two examples of common grace (God’s grace that is extended to all of mankind).  He reminds us that the sun shines and the rain falls on the good and the bad.  Are we to show more favoritism than God?  He also reminds us that we are called to have a higher standard for our love.  Anyone can love the people who love them back or who are like them.  It takes a supernaturally transformed follower of Christ to show love to someone who is different and destructive.

Loving enemies is not easy.  First, we must remember who we are.  We are loved and valued by God.  Our enemies cannot take that away.  We also remember that we are sinners saved by grace who were once enemies with God.  Second, we must remember that genuine love is unconditional and desires the best for the other.  Demonstrating this love means giving concern even when it would ordinarily be unwarranted.  Third, we do the hard things.  We work at the relationships with our enemies.  We refuse to speak ill of them.  We serve them without any promise that the service would be returned.  We strive to see them as God’s creation rather than our dilemma.  Above all, we ask God to work in our heart and in the hearts of our enemies that we might be reconciled to them.

Reflection
Broken relationships can eat away at us.  Our relationship with our enemies can drain us to the point of exhaustion.  But what if we did not see people as our enemies anymore?  What if we saw them as people who need to see God’s love?  Is there someone in your life who is your enemy?  Do you simply ignore them?  Do you return the pain that they cause you?  Today is perhaps the day that you might begin to see them as objects of God’s love and as people worthy of our love.  Ask God to change your heart towards your enemies.  May God work miracles in your relationships.