Love Your Enemies…How?

Posted on December 14, 2015 in Justice

Love your enemies blackboard

I follow Jesus. I want to obey everything He commanded and do what He empowered me to do.

Perhaps His most challenging command, from his Sermon on the Mount, is “love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.”

Really? Love terrorists who want to destroy my country? Love the person who bursts into a school and murders innocent people? Love a criminal who breaks into my house and threatens my wife?

This is too complex to wrestle with in one blog post, but here’s my starting point—I need to be clear on what Jesus means when he says love my enemies and do good to them.

The word for “love” in the original Greek rendering of the Sermon on the Mount is agapao, a verb which means to love in a social sense, to value or esteem people because of perceived intrinsic worth. Agapao is a choice and an act of will, not an emotion.

The apostle Paul describes agape, the noun form, this way: patient, kind, content, unconceited, humble, honoring, others focused, and slow to anger. Agape keeps no records of wrongs, does not delight in evil, and rejoices with the truth. Agape bears all things, covers over the faults of others. Agape always trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

Back to my questions above. What if there’s a clear and present danger in my community, or an immediate threat in front of me? Why would God want me to bear those things? To cover over the faults of my enemy? Isn’t my first responsibility, or a government’s, to protect?

Real justice seeks to eliminate injustice. What greater injustice is there than the murder of innocents?

Miroslav Volf, a Christian theologian from Croatia (educated at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena CA) and the author of Exclusion and Embrace writes, “If you want justice and nothing but justice, you will inevitably get injustice. If you want justice without injustice, you must want love.”

“Love your enemies” is hard to act upon. Which is why I’m so passionate to explore it through my novels. Here are the tensions:

  • The enemies we see are human beings who bear the image and likeness of God.
  • The Bible tells us we battle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil.
  • People are free to choose whom they will serve, and will reap what they sow.
  • God says vengeance is His, and He will repay.

More in my next post. Meanwhile, what say you?