“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”Luke 6:27
The first time new Christians encounter this verse in the Bible, they likely think to themselves, “Say what!” Whether it’s the person who belittles you at the office or the worksite, the rich neighbor who treats you condescendingly, or the bully at school, the answer, the command that Jesus gives to us in response to such treatment is to love them as we love ourselves and do good to them.
But how do we force ourselves to love someone? After all, Jesus is not looking for mere outward actions of convenience but actions based on authentic love that emanates from one’s heart. Malcolm Tolbert put it this way regarding Christian love: “It is a way of living with and relating to other human beings. We can act in creative, helpful, and redemptive ways toward people for whom we do not feel attracted– even toward those who are hostile and vindictive.”
I was 12-years-old when my parents decided to reveal to me that I was an adopted child. While it did not change my love for my father and mother, it brought to light why my brother, grandmother, and many other extended family members treated me like an outsider. My grandmother, my only living grandparent, even referred to me as “the other one.” For years, I returned that same level of disdain those family members held towards me.
As time moved forward after I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord, I learned the value and importance of turning my aggravation, my bitterness into love for those family members. It was not easy, and it did not happen overnight, but it did come to pass. I learned to forgive and love despite that love was never reciprocated. I learned that where they fell short, God made up the difference in my heart and in ways that go beyond what words can describe.
By learning to love our enemies, which never comes easy I might add, and doing good to those who hate us, we realize that doing so prevents our hearts from being shackled by bitterness and hate. Instead, it stays wrapped in the warmth of God’s perfect love. It is a beautiful reminder of the words found in Romans 5:8) that state, “For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, while we had disdain for God and a total disregard for His word, He died our death so that we might live His life. Wow!
When it comes to loving those who hate or otherwise persecute us, let us recall that Jesus willingly suffered and died on a cross out of love for those who persecuted Him. Besides, when our heart is enslaved by bitterness, resentment, and downright hatred, it obstructs our ability to be an effective witness for Christ, especially to those who need to know Him most, those who hate and persecute us. The Bible says that faith, hope, and love remain and the greatest of which is love. Therefore, love your neighbor as yourself and set yourself free.
Tolbert, M. O. (1970). Luke. C J. Allen (ed.). The Broadman Bible Commentary (Vol. 9). (pp. 1-188). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.