Love Your Enemies!

20 Nov

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The world’s standard of behavior is to treat others as they have treated you, which seems to be the worldview also taught by the rabbis in the 1st century AD (cf. Matthew 5:38, 43). Almost like a prophetic warning in 1965 America, Jackie DeShannon recorded What the World Needs Now Is Love[1] just as the Viet Nam War was escalating. What the world needed in the 1st century AD (Luke 6:35) and what the world needed in 1965 and what it has always needed is love, and Jesus gave us an example to follow (Romans 5:6-8), not that we need to die as he did, but that we need to have the same attitude Jesus had (cf. Philippians 2:5).

Yet, some would ask: “How do I love my enemy?” The answer is simple, but working it out is what is difficult. In fact, working it out is quite impossible, unless one has the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ disciples are told we need to be patient with our enemies and kind to them, not jealous of what they have attained through worldly methods, or bragging about our own good deeds, nor should we arrogantly conclude we are more righteous than they are (1Corinthians 13:4). Believers shouldn’t be rude to those who hate them or act selfishly or be irritable with them; nor should we brood over the wrongs others have committed against us (1Corinthians 13:5). Although we should never rejoice in our enemy’s unrighteous behavior toward others, we need to be glad over the good they do for others (1Corinthaisn 13:6). While Jesus disciples are called upon to quietly bear all the injustices committed against us, we need also to believe and hope things will improve, i.e. that eventually our enemy will change, and not just believe and hope for change but patiently wait for it to occur (1Corinthians 13:7). Simply put, our love for our enemy should never fail (1Corinthians 13:8).

As I read Luke 6:35, I have to say that I don’t believe Jesus really means, as is commonly translated, that we should lend to others and never hope for anything in return. Of course, if it is interest on a personal loan that we shouldn’t hope for, then I agree. However, the law provided for interest free loans for one’s brother and especially for the poor, even the stranger in the gate. This had nothing to do with business loans, but concerned giving those in need a helping hand. Therefore, I believe Jesus’ remark assumes his disciples, who are able to help their enemy, would do as the law commands. What Jesus means for us to understand is that we shouldn’t lend and despair of receiving it back. Folks in the Old Testament often refrained from doing good, because they were afraid the needy wouldn’t be able to pay back the loan. Jesus’ tells us to lend without despairing, even if previous personal loans (including our time, a physical helping hand etc.) weren’t repaid. Always believe in and hope for the integrity of our enemy to eventually prove true (cf. 1Corinthians 13:7).

Believers should behave this way, because this is exactly how God acts toward ungrateful and cruel people (Luke 6:35-36). Jesus wants his disciples to behave like God (cf. Genesis 1:27). When we come to Luke 6:37, we find Jesus is still concerned about our interpersonal relationships, especially toward our enemies. Luke 6:35-36 places verse-37 in the context of helping our enemy. In so doing, we need to refrain from judging him.

Judging behavior is a God thing, not something a disciple of Jesus needs to participate in. Believers should never act as accusers or judges of our their enemies. Instead we need to send him away with whatever he needs, if that is in our power (Luke 6:37). In so doing, Jesus promises we will be treated likewise, both by God and other people, and that with abundance (Luke 6:38). It is a law of God as certain as the law of gravity; with whatever measure one uses to treat his neighbor, that is the gauge that will be used by others for him.


[1]What the World Needs Now Is Love” is a 1965 popular song with lyrics by Hal David and music composed by Burt Bacharach. First recorded and made popular by Jackie DeShannon, it was released on April 15, 1965. The song reached number 7 on the US Hot 100 charts in July of that year.

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Posted by on November 20, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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