The Meaning of Love
|The Author and Finisher of Our Faith|
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Lesson 10.. LOVE .. The Many Facets Part 4
LOVE ... Your Enemies
I struggled with this lesson. If we think we sometimes have a hard time loving our brothers and sisters in the Lord, my goodness, what a frustration it is trying to love our enemies!
Jesus said, "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." Matt. 5:44
There is no room for 'loopholes' in that command. The 'say' in Greek is (lego) .. to teach, affirm, command, point out with words, to speak out ... I guess that means Jesus meant what He said!
Enemy in the Greek is (oyeb) actively hostile, odious, hateful ... also used of a personal enemy or one who is at enmity with God by their sin .. (by the way, I don't see that a TRUE believer can fall into this category)
Wow! I was once an enemy of God! - For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5:10
Remember when you were His enemy? How did He deal with you? How did He deal with me? He mercifully gave me a chance to come to know Him and acknowledge Him by faith and be saved from His wrath to come upon His enemies. So, I see that the true love of an enemy is based upon one factor .. our desire that they too partake of God's grace and mercy. When we look at it that way it's a little easier to choose to love that way.
But, how do we go about doing this? Our feelings are always getting in the way of our efforts. One thing I learned to do some time ago, is to deliberately recall the person I used to be before I repented and God forgave me of my sins. Then I can say, "Dear God, thank You for Your mercy toward me, and Your favor to me when I deserved justice and instead I received mercy. Don't get me wrong, I nurse my wounds just like a lot of us, and my 'mad' doesn't go away automatically, and I have to work on not 'wishing' justice on the one who wronged me. But if I don't let the seed of bitterness grow, and instead suffocate it by not feeding it by telling everyone about it so they'll know that poor, pitiful me has been hurt by so and so .. then eventually those feelings go away, and I'm the richer for it, because I'm not harboring a grudge anymore and it's not hurting me spiritually, mentally, or physically. Jesus had our own welfare in mind when He told us to bless and not curse, as well as the one who has wronged us. One thing that's a real help is to surround yourself with believers who refuse to let you keep nursing those wounds. Have someone you can trust and confide in, and let them help you choose not to retaliate or let hatred grow. Those friends will be the same ones who refuse to back bite, gossip, and render unfair judgment, and that takes care of a lot of whining and complaining about our enemies (by the way, I have a friend who will actually do this, believing it better to do the right thing than let me wallow in my pity) Be accountable to them and of course, to the Lord. Keep choosing, and asking for God's help and He will always help you because that is His will, and if we ask anything according to His will, believing, then we have it!
I hauled out reference books by the tons to research for this lesson, and read some commentaries written by some of our greatest theologians on this subject. I began to get a broader picture of the implications here. One thing I understood is that when Jesus said in Mt 5:39 "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. was that this was not a part of a set of rules in this whole dialogue. We humans actually like rules and thrive on them if we can. It makes it easier in some ways to have it all spelled out clearly for us. When you think about all the many rules and regulations that Israel had to live with we think .. What a hardship! But, in reality, we have more of a responsibility now in the New Covenant. This Covenant is written on our hearts. It's about choices and obedience in a personal way. It's a heart relationship with our Lord, not an outward set of laws and ordinances. When Jesus taught, He taught principles, not rules! The spirit of the issue was what He was getting across to his disciples and listeners. There weren't enough detailed illustrations to cover everything that could or would happen to us in a given lifetime of experience. So if it were enough for me to turn the other cheek when I was slapped without retaliating, or give someone my coat if they asked for it, and give a little food to the hungry, and a drink of water to an enemy, or not ask for borrowed items to be returned, etc. I'd be set! For one thing, I can't remember anyone slapping my face very often, can you? How many people have asked you for your coat? Just some examples here, for us to look at in a practical way. We could try very hard to do these things to the letter. We could go through the New Testament and make a list (you know I love lists!) and then we could determine to do all those things to the letter, and that's just it .. it would be to the LETTER! And we get right back to a set of rules!
I say all this to make a point. It's the 'spirit' of Jesus' teachings that we need to understand. And it gets down to this .. we need to choose NOT to 'get even' or to nurse a grudge when someone attacks us personally or uses us for their own selfish gain. We must be the children of our Father, and not curse them, but ask a blessing for them. Choose to do good when and if it's possible for you to do, and not do evil because they did evil to you or a loved one. Actually, in doing so, God said you would be heaping coals of fire upon their heads. I believe that means that if they never repent and remain an enemy to God, they will suffer His wrath even more for the harm they've done to one of His beloved. But if they do repent and are reconciled to Him, then those coals of fire were used to convict them of sin and lead to their repentance. That's just a personal interpretation.
Of course, all this makes us more vulnerable in many ways, and that's why Jesus told us to be wise. He said, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." .. Mt 10:16 .. You see, He didn't mean that we were to lay down and as the old saying goes, "Be a carpet for everyone to walk on." You need to have the right 'spirit' .. not the set of rules. We must be aware .. being a Christian doesn't mean being 'clueless' .. we will, if we have an obedient and willing heart, be able to know when to flee a situation, when to stand and confront evil, when to bless and assist, when to give aid. Because we will be led by the Holy Spirit, and our hearts will choose to do good. There are some things and situations that the Lord does not want us personally to be involved in .. He may have it reserved for another He has called. We can only react for ourselves in a way that is in obedience to the commands of Jesus to fulfill the law of love and liberty.
Given the probability of war looming soon in the horizon, I began to think of war in a scriptural light. I was a little perplexed concerning the issue of how to react to an enemy's attacks, scripturally speaking. I think many of us Christians have given that at least some thought these days. While reading commentaries written by Matthew Henry, Weirsbe, and others I found a common thread of thinking concerning a nation going to war. Nowhere in the Bible is war forbidden, and in fact has been many times actually ordered by God. And in one instance, Israel was ordered to war and refused, then suffered God's wrath upon themselves. As you know, there were countless times that God sent His people to war, and always for the express purpose of eradicating great evil as a judgment from God Himself. So there are times apparently, when war is not only a necessity, but a divine appointment.
Some would say, but we're in the New Testament. Well, nowhere in the New Testament was it forbidden. There were several things forbidden to Christians but war was not mentioned as one of them. And I do believe that God would not have left out such an important thing as that if it were to be forbidden to a Christian nation. And He knew that someday there would rise up such a nation, ordained to carry the Gospel throughout the world in the end time days.
Some would quote from Exodus 20:13 .. Thou Shalt Not Kill .. The word for kill is ratsach - meaning murder - with intentional vengence to do harm to another. References for war in the Bible do not use that word.
My Father was an infantryman in WWII, and he was there at the liberation of a concentration camp which had been the place of mass murder of the Jews. Had America not entered that war after being attacked, who knows what the outcome would have been. I now enjoy the freedom to be writing this lesson and worship my God because of my father and thousands of other brave men and women who fought and yes, died, to ensure that freedom. I have lived as a free person my whole lifetime because my country rose up to defend that way of life. I have had a husband, son, and brother who have served in the military. As a wife and mother, yes, I hate war and I'll be writing a piece about just that in an upcoming theme page on this site, but I also hate the idea of my children and someday grandchildren and great grandchildren living under the oppression of an evil government where there is no freedom to live and worship God. Enough on that subject just now.
Back to the issue of personal versus national response to an enemy. We have to behave one way in a personal manner, and I think that was made clear above, but what of a national response to terrorism or attack from an enemy? I still couldn't quite explain it in words of my own, although I had begun to understand the concept. I had it all right there in my head, but couldn't put it together.
I turned on the TV and while I don't often listen to many preachers on TV (just a personal choice) I 'just happened' to tune in to one who I respect as a teacher of the Word and guess what? He was addressing the issue! I knew that God had led me to the TV just at the right time. And who says that TV is all bad!! He said everything that was on the tip of my tongue and in my mind and in my spirit. That Jesus was speaking to individuals! The Old Testament was to a nation. The New Covenant was focused on the person. So Jesus' teachings are much toward personal relationships, with God first, then our fellow believers, and mankind in general. And then, he explained that there was much teaching in the New Testament that we were to obey our government .. those put in authority over us. God's people in the Old Testament had their authority clearly laid out for them in one way or another. Even when they didn't want the government that God had ordained for them in the form of Judges and overseers, He gave them a King when they demanded. But they always had one type of government or another. God is a God of order and He never endorsed anarchy! So do we in America, have a government. We may not always like the way it's run or be dissatisfied at times, but we have to live with a governmental system. According to the teacher I listened to, there is only ONE reason for a Christian to disobey his government or laws of the land! And that reason is that if the government tries to force you to do anything that goes strictly against the Biblical commands of God. Even then, you must be prepared to suffer the consequences by your refusal if it is the will of God for you to do so. And since there is no written ordinance against going to war in either testament, then we have the moral obligation to support our government in decisions of these matters, because God ordained and put these in authority to rule over us, even and especially in a democratic society. He gave New Testament scriptures backing this up. I'm going to try to compile a list of those events for an add on to my theme page. I didn't have time to do it before preparing this lesson. I should have picked up my notepad and taken notes, but I was in awe .. I kept saying to myself ... "God, I know You're confirming what I discovered in my research for this lesson!" However, I was familiar enough with the scripture references that he'd quoted to know that he was right on in what he was saying.
I truly hope that I've shed some light on loving our enemies. It's been a hard subject for me and I've prayed that God would use this teaching to our good and help us to truly be sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father! We must not hate our enemies, but love what is right and good, and pray for our enemies that they may be saved from the wrath to come by turning from sin and being reconciled to God. It saddens me that war must happen any time in this world, but I see from Scripture that God's ways are above our ways and war has at times been a necessary thing. So in my heart I believe that we can love our enemies despite war or conflict and trust that God will help us to liberate those in bondage, protect our precious freedoms, and move toward the fulfillment of His plan for this world in returning to set up His Kingdom, ushering us into eternity where there will be no wars ever again.
I'm sure there may be those who will disagree with what I've written in this lesson, and I ask that if you do, please agree to disagree with me. I refuse to argue about God's word, unless it be to lead one to Christ, and the argument would then be to prove God's love for us in giving His Son for a ransom for our sins.
As always, I respectfully ask that you pray for your own understanding of the Word, and never take another's word for anything taught unless it lines up with the written Word of God, myself included. None of us understand completely or know all that there is to know in the Word, and we're all subject to error.
I also want to thank you again for having a love for God and His Word and wanting to study with us here at this online ministry. I thank you for your faithfulness, love and prayers for me and my family, and those who work with me in this ministry. You've become partners together with us by the bonds of love in the household of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We love you and appreciate you, and are blessed by your visiting and praying for this ministry! In Christ, you are the reason we can go on!
God Bless You and Keep You in His Love as We Exalt Him and Give Him Glory and Honor and Praise! In Jesus' Name I ask Him to Bless This Lesson to our Understanding and Benefit!
I pray you're standing in faith and love as we approach a monumental task ahead, to protect our freedoms from those who would destroy our precious rights to live an abundant life and to worship and obey God!
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Love In Christ,