Luke 6:27-36 (ESV)
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
This is the biggie, the thing that can really make non-believers think, “These guys must be from another planet.” No other Christian behavior is as impressive. No other is as glorifying.
But it’s also the thing that can make non-believers think, “These guys are idiots.” There are harmful ways to obey this command. We must love our enemies wisely.
This is not easy and every case must be considered individually, but remember two things. First, this teaching does not supersede Jesus’ other teaching on love.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)
Jesus did not command us to love our enemies in a way that is harmful to others. And the second point fits with the first – love doesn’t always mean going easy on someone.
God doesn’t always go easy on us. The best and most loving answer to our prayers is often something we would never choose. Like any good father, He can go against His child’s desires.
Similarly, some folks actually need a night in the slammer, and the other neighbors we are commanded to love may need them off the streets too. This can lead to some tough calls, but note this – if it takes more courage to hold someone accountable than to let them off the hook, think twice.
Christian love is not cowardice.
We need to pray for God to teach us compassion, especially towards those who don’t deserve it.
This is a great prayer because it asks the Lord to change our hearts in a way that almost never happens naturally. Feelings of compassion for people who wrong us do not normally grow over time. The problem is that this goes beyond just forgiving these folks.
Yes, it’s good to let go of baggage, but that’s a lot easier than actually wishing blessings on a wrong-doer.
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