Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Love Your Enemies -- He Loved You and Loves Through, Doesn't He

I used to balk when I read stern commands from the Lord:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5: 43-44)

I admit candidly -- I cannot do this. When I tried to love my enemies, I just got angrier and more frustrated, because the moment that I tried I found myself still surging in wrath, and then I would get angry with myself for getting angry.

Jesus promises great things for the one who loves his enemies:

"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5: 46)

Here, though, it becomes clear that Jesus is pressing on his hearers an impossible task. How can I be a child of God by what I do? Does that not contravene the whole notion of salvation by grace through faith?

It becomes very clear, from the first words of the Sermon on the Mount to the last verse of Chapter 7 that Jesus is putting the Law back to its pristine, and impossible standard.

"For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

"Be perfect" Jesus declares, or rather "completed", not "do perfectly". How am I supposed to do that?

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

"And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

"When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?

"But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19: 23-26)

How did God make it possible for man to be saved? Through the death of His Son, who took our sins, imparted to us right standing before God in His Son, resurrected and seated in eternal honor at the right hand of the Father.

On the Cross, just before He died, Jesus cried out:

"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19:30)

The word "Finished" is the same word Jesus uses in the Sermon on the Mount, when he exhorts his listeners to be "perfect" like their Father in Heaven.

So, to love our enemies is a task too much for any man to complete.

So God did the loving for us -- He showed us His love, and by His love operating in us, our awareness of His love for us, we can then in turn love everyone:

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

and then John follows this later with:

"We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

This love God's love, is ever-shedding, never-ending. Jesus dying on the Cross is not merely an example akin to "well, if He can do it, so can I" self-willed courage. More precisely, Christ Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father delivers Himself to us through the promise of the Holy Spirit (cf Acts 2:33; Ephesians 1:13), who first fruit is love (cf Galatians 5:22). It is God's love working within us, not our own. It is God's love that so stirs us to love others.

Yet I would still find myself upset from time to time with others. I became depressed and despondent to the extent that I would still get angry from time to time about people from the past.

Then I remembered Paul's glorious praise of God through Jesus Christ, the promise of His love that would never leave us:

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

"Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8: 38-39)

Nothing can separate me from God's love, not one things, because there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (cf Romans 8:1).

Also, I am forever beloved before God the Father:

"To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:6)

The "Beloved" here is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, a title which God the Father bestowed on His Blessed Son, even before He accomplished any miracles or died on the Cross:

"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

"And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3: 16-17)

We can claim boldly that we are accepted and as beloved in the eyes of the Father, just like His Son:

"By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world." (1 John 4:17)

If we lose our temper, If we find ourselves getting angry or fearful about anyone, we need only remember that God the Father loves us, because He loves His Son. We are one with His Son (cf John 17:21), forever beloved. As we meditate on our oneness with Christ Jesus, our fears dissipate. No matter who bad we feel, no matter how angry we may feel, we can rest secure that we are forever loved, blessed, and favored in Christ Jesus the beloved.

This love infused in us then carries us through all our engagements in the world. Even our enemies become recipients of our love, as we hold no fear or anger towards them any longer!

Christ in you, the hope of glory (Cf Colossians 1:27) enables to release obedience in concert with Christ's Sermon on the Mount. We have no enmity with God; therefore, we have no enmity with others in the world. The world cannot hurt us, deprive us of our standing in Christ, nor can the words and actions of others hinder His blessings in our love. We fear no man, and thus we harbor no resentment toward any!

We love everyone -- including our enemies, because He first loved us, and continues loving us!

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