Have you ever hated someone? Despised them? Have you ever been so mistreated & hurt by someone that you burn with anger against them and/or their actions? Most of us at some point in our lives could answer yes to any (or maybe even all) of these questions. Some of these people we struggle with are family members or co-workers, neighbors or even our friends.
The Jewish people despised the Roman Empire and the Roman authority in thier lives because of the oppression they felt. They were God, Yahweh’s, people and the Romans treated them very poorly. When Jesus began his teaching ministry, one of the cultural problems of the day that he addressed was this very issue of hate and anger.
Jesus had a radicle message that was different than many other teachers of the day. Jesus told the people, God’s people, to love these enemies.
But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. (Luke 6:27-36, NLT)
And this message is still true for us today but it makes me ask the question: loving your enemies…what does this mean? As I read through this teaching of Jesus I see one concise truth: loving your enemeies means acting in their best interest. To pray for them…to help them. Jesus asks those who chose to follow to follow His example by loving our enemies. This teaching of Jesus was radical even then and for those of who choose to follow His example now, this teaching calls us to be radical in our love to those we have the hardest time loving.
It is through loving and praying for our enemies, we can overcome evil with good. It is the basic principle of “give what you want to get” really. Yet it is deeper than than that – for when we show love towards our enemie we will show that Jesus is Lord of our lives. But to do that, we have to be fully surrendered to God.
Verse 36 calls us to compassion. How do we show compassion? We can show it in character, holiness, maturity, and love.
Character: We cannot be perfect. But, we can try to be as much like Christ as possible. Often, since we know we won’t ever be totally perfect we end up not trying as hard as we ought to be more like Christ. Our character needs to grow to be more like Christ and in doing so we take on the tremendous compassion Christ offered the world through His very life.
Holiness: We are to seperate ourselves from the worlds sinful values – this is what it means to pursue holiness and to be a true example of compassion. We are to be more devoted to God’s desires than to our own. We are to carry out His love and compassion into the world – this is the manifestation of the holiness of God in our lives.
Maturity: We cannot achieve Christlike character and holiness all at once. It is a working in our lives. Much like compassion is a working in our lives. Much like loving our enemies is working in our lives as well. Normally, it just doesn’t happen – but over time it takes root and gains momentum. We must grow toward marturity and wholeness.
Love: We can seek to love others as completely as God loves us. That is how we show compassion.
Christ calls all of us to excel in this area of becoming more like Him – of loving our enemies. Obviously their a need for this kind of action and living our world today. What do you want to experience in your life: the pain of hate and the seperation that is brings? Or, the fruit of working towards loving others and the blessing you get from your choice to be more like Christ to others, especially your enemies?
Life is built on character, and character is built on decision. But decisions are based on values, and your values must be accepted by faith. Moses made his life-changing decision on the basis of values that other people thought were foolish, but God honored his faith (Hebrews 11:24-29). The Christian, YOU, can enjoy all that God gives if you live with eternity’s values, HEAVEN, in view (1 Timothy 6:17).
So maybe to be more like Jesus and to grow in compassion for others you need to examine your view. What’s your view like? Jesus assumed that anyone who live for eternal values would get in trouble with the worlds crowd. After all, He did refer to those who would follow Him as being salt and light. And sometimes salt stings and light exposes the depravity of sin.
So should we treat our enemies? We must love them of coarse – we must do good towards them, and pray for them. We must ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with His Presence so that we can respond to them with the holy compassion of God. Responding to people with love can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5, NLT) “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love…” (Galatians 5:22, NLT)
I heard it said before that “hatred only breeds more hatred.” Are you controlled by the Holy Spirit or hatred? Do you express yourself positively when others are negative? Are you generous when others are selfish? It comes back to that basic principle that we must treat others as we would want to be treated.
Part of being a follower of Christ is to be like Him and to be compassionate. The important thing is that we become more like God in our character and that we look less like ourselves. This is the greatest reward anyone can receive. Far greaterd than riches, or even food, laughter or popularity. For those things will all be gone some time day, but the expressions of you faith and trust in Christ last forever.
Jesus taught those who felt oppressed to love their enemies and to be compassionate. Both are amazing opportunities for us too, to show the world who God is and this is a great way for us to be more like God Himself as we reflect His love and compassion to others.