Finally, I’m back to blogging. Although I can’t assure that I’ll regularly post, I’ll do my best to update it. I just finished Dr. Albert Mohler’s The Conviction to Lead. He wisely writes, “Leaders who want to make a difference, and to make that difference last, must write.”1 I deeply agree, so I’m pushing myself to write again. Anyway, I’m posting my manuscript for my message at Elevate Makati (August 30).
I love comic-based superhero movies. One of my favorites is Spider-Man (the first trilogy starring Toby Maguire). I’m hoping they continued the trilogy instead of making a reboot. Even if the Peter Parker-Gwen Stacy tandem makes the rebooted trilogy more interesting, I still prefer the first one. Sorry, Peter-Gwen fans.
Anyway, the most intriguing among the three movies in the first trilogy first is third one. I realized that it’s not just about action. It’s also about seeking revenge. Peter Parker wanted to kill Flint Marko (also the Sandman) to avenge his Uncle Ben’s death. Harry Osborne attacked his bestfriend Peter to avenge his father Norman Osborne (also the Green Goblin). And Eddie Brock (also Venom) wanted to seek revenge for Peter’s humiliation of him. One film, three revenges.
I believe that the world, as seen in Hollywood films, is telling us that revenge and hating our enemies are just human, normal, and therefore okay. But the Bible says otherwise. In fact, Jesus says, “Love your enemies!”
I find this one of the most outrageous sayings of Jesus. Why? I have two reasons. First, it’s just counter-cultural. In a world where everybody tries to get even with their enemies, this is radical. Second, I just can’t figure how the words “love” and “enemies” fit together into one phrase. It just blows my mind.
Why don’t we take a look at this shocking statement of Jesus? Let’s go to Luke 6:27-36 and unpack it.
WHAT IT MEANS
Jesus tells His disciples (and by implication, to us) to love their (our) enemies (v. 27). The word love (agapao) is the highest form of love, a committed kind of love. This is the same love that we are to give God and the people around us (Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27). This is the same love that God has for the world, that made Him gave His one and only son, Jesus (John 3:16). This is the kind of love that we are to show our enemies.
So who are these enemies? Obviously, these don’t refer to Satan and his demons. Instead, these are the people who hate us (v. 27), curse us (v. 28), and abuse us (v. 28). In other words, these refer to people whom we are in conflict with. It could be a parent, relative, friend, classmate, officemate, boss, or churchmate.
Why did Jesus command this to His disciples? During Jesus’ time, there’s a popular teaching to “love your neighbor and hate your enemy” (Matthew 5:43). “Loving your neighbor” is taken from Leviticus 19:18 and is also taught in the New Testament (Jesus in Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27; Paul in Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14; James in James 2:8). But we don’t know where the “hating your enemy” came from. Some commentators say that the religious leaders just added it to justify their hate. So Jesus, being a radical teacher, dismantles this false teaching by telling His disciples, “Love your enemies.”
Loving our enemies is indeed a radical teaching. It is against human nature. It is counter-cultural. In other words, it’s really difficult, if not totally impossible. How easy it is to seek revenge and hate our enemies. Many times, we even try to justify our vengeance and hate, just like the religious leaders.
So how are we to love our enemies? Jesus moves from being general into being specific. He tells us to “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (vv. 27b-28). He goes on to say not to seek revenge (vv. 29-30; see Matthew 5:38-42).
What happens when we love our enemies? In verses 32-34, Jesus points out that if we only love those who love us, then we are no different from the world. But when we also love our enemies, we show to the world that we are different. We prove to the world that we children of God (v. 35b).
A FEW MORE THOUGHTS
Here are a few more thoughts:
1. Forgive. First things first. The Bible tells us to forgive, as the Lord has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13). Oftentimes, we excuse ourselves from forgiving, believing that we’re not yet ready. But when we put off forgiving, we are just storing-up anger and bitterness. Then we end up hurting and destroying ourselves. Forgiveness frees; it actually benefits us.
2. Make reconciliation a priority. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” In other words, if you know someone whom you have offended, go and be reconciled to that person. Do it as soon as possible. Make it a priority, even higher than corporate worship.
This year, the student ministry that I’m leading is unusually marked with stories of reconciliation. I have seen students reconciled with parents, friends, or ministry teammates. One story goes like this: A girl suddenly stopped showing up in the youth service. When an opportunity came, I talked to her via Facebook. I found out that she had a fight with her mom and was in bad terms with her for days already. As her spiritual counselor, I urged her to ask for forgiveness from her mom and be reconciled to her. She heeded my advice.
The next time I talked with her, there’s good news. She got reconciled with her mom. The details are actually heartwarming. What happened was the day after our last chat, she woke up early, cooked breakfast for her mom, and asked forgiveness from her. In the next youth service, she was back.
3. Remember the gospel. The gospel tells us that we are sinners and have rebelled against a holy God. Because of that, we are called enemies of God (Romans 5:10). But because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we can be reconciled to Him. And why would Jesus die for His enemies? It’s because of love and grace (see Romans 5:8).
Indeed, loving our enemies is no easy task. But we have to remind ourselves of Jesus. He sets us an example to follow. He loved those mocked, flogged, and crucified Him, even forgiving them at the cross (Luke 23:34). And ultimately, He loved us, who were once His enemies.
The reason why we can love our enemies is because Jesus loved His.