Love Your Enemies • Devotion 4

The Paradox
Jeannie Yates

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” - Thumper (from the movie “Bambi”)

Do you remember hearing this from your parents? Or maybe you were the one saying it! It sounds like really good advice; “If you cannot respond with kindness, keep your mouth shut!” That has to be in the Bible somewhere, right?

We know we are supposed to love our neighbors. That was established way back in the Old Testament. Those hearing Jesus deliver this Sermon on the Mount would have been very familiar with the idea of loving your neighbor. The religious leaders would even have debates discussing, “Who is your neighbor?”

I can think of no greater paradox than the one Jesus presents in Matthew 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

It would definitely be easier to take Thumper’s advice, but Jesus asks us to do so much more than just tolerate our enemies. The challenge is to no longer be passive with those that rise up against us but rather take an active role in showing them love. In loving them, we pray. Pray for God to bless them. Pray for God to help us see them how He sees them. Pray for God to heal the discord between us.

MacLaren writes in Expositions Of Holy Scripture, “We are not only to allow no stirring of malice in our feelings, but we are to let kindly emotions bear fruit in words blessing the cursers, and in deeds of goodness, and, highest of all, in prayers for those whose hate is bitterest, being founded on religion, and who are carrying it into action in persecution. We cannot hate a man if we pray for him; we cannot pray for him if we hate him.”

Everyone can love those that love them back - that is the easy part. We are not called to be like everyone else, we are called to be like Jesus. Jesus is our standard, our measure, and our example for loving enemies. We cannot be satisfied with just “saying nothing at all” but must seek to love our enemies like Jesus loves His enemies - as He loves us.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8






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