Treat each other the way God treats you--with mercy and kindness,
with compassion and grace. Period. There are no ifs, buts or
exceptions.


 

"If you love those who love you, what reward have you?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet
your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not
even the tax collectors do so?

[{Luke 6:34-36} "If you lend to those from whom you hope to
receive back, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to
sinners to receive as much back.

"But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing
in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of
the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.

"Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful."]

                                                              Matthew 5:46-47 NKJV


                                         Love Your Enemies

Anger, bitterness and hate are powerful weapons, but the problem is
that they usually do more harm to you than to your opponent. Loving 
an enemy is not only good for your enemy, it's healthy for you. When
you hate someone, the one you hate holds you captive; they control
your actions and responses, even your thoughts. Hate binds you into
hard knots. When Jesus said, "Love your enemies", he was calling
you to freedom. You can stand tall when you love, and joyfully stretch
as far as you want and in all directions.

As in previous verses, Jesus is challenging us to a radical way of
thinking--Love not only your friends, but all those people you meet who
are not your friends as well. And yes, the friendless, too, and the needy.
Jesus expects more from his disciples than he does from the crowd.
Anybody can be nice to someone who is nice to them. Most of us
would confidently loan our good neighbors some chairs for their party
because we know the chairs will be returned in the morning. People
routinely do these things whether they claim knowledge of Jesus or not. 
Even those despised tax collectors, who were both traitors and crooks,
were kind to their friends.

But loving those who don't love you, talking to people who are not
friendly to you, and lending to someone who cannot be trusted--these
are not things we normally do. We are uncomfortable with the idea
of being kind to the unappreciative and associating with those who
spell trouble. Instead we like people who follow the rules and
contribute to society. Those who can self-regulate and not be a
burden to anyone. We have little time for those who raise divisive
questions or deviate from our normal mindset. Our attitude is more
like: If you need a helping hand, for God's sake at least say "thank
you" when we give you something!

Once more, Jesus knew a better way and wants to set us on a
different path. He's peeling the onion now, so to speak. Jesus has
been saying the same thing in different ways as he talked about
kindness, mercy, compassion and living in peace with one another.
The bottom line is to love and not hate, to build up and not destroy,
to include and encourage without manipulation. To be like our
Father in heaven, who is good even to the ungrateful and those
with evil intentions.

We could call this "second-mile loving" because it goes way beyond
what is expected of us. It doesn't discriminate between friend and foe,
but treats all people as part of God's family. Give without looking for
anything in return! Love those who don't deserve to be loved!
Be kind in all circumstances, even to the point of loving those who
will not likely ever give love in return! Jesus left no room for the
proverbial protest, "But . . ."!

To love someone is to seek their highest good. It means that no matter
what his problem or how difficult she is, I am for that person. I will
affirm, protect, encourage, and stand beside them. Love can not be
selective, it just reaches out. It assumes the risk of being rejected
again and again. The reason is simple - so that we may be like
our Father in heaven.

Where does such love come from? The desire and the power to
love those people we don't like comes from God. We learn it from
God because God loves us even when we are ungrateful and
unresponsive, even when we are at our worst. As we receive
unconditional love from God, we want to pass it along to others,
indiscriminately, like rain falling on good and evil alike.

Jesus is the source of this kind of love; it does not come naturally.
A personal, intimate and living relationship with Jesus is the key.
I love the unlovely because I am a child of God, not on the basis of
who the other person is or how they make me feel. When I love it's
more about my relationship to Jesus than it is about the other person!
Loving our enemy involves more than our feelings; it is a matter of
the will and a determination of the mind to be faithful and obedient
to the words of Jesus. We love our enemy with deeds of kindness.

Those who love both friend and foe are children of God who choose
to follow the path to his kingdom. They live in hope. Who knows?
Maybe someday, in some circumstance, love will transform the
turmoil of hell into a beautiful picture of heaven.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

Icebreaker:   Name two traits which you dislike in other people. 

 

Some things you can't change and your enemy may be one of them.
You can't rid someone of their malicious behavior, but you can
rid yourself of bitterness.
            Discuss some things which you can't change and the things
            you can change in some of your more difficult relationships.
Think about your private little wars with people who are disagreeable
or rude. Maybe someone who snubs you.
            What does Jesus want you to do about these interactions?

What is it that makes some people gravitate to the fringes of society,
break the rules, act in hostile ways, and appear brash, rude,
uncooperative and ungrateful?
            Did you ever know anyone who did not respond positively
                        to kindness?
            How does God treat a person like that?
            Did God ever use you to love an unlovely person?
                        If so, share something from the experience.


Sometimes the ungrateful or hard-to-love person is us, or someone
in our household. We are often not on our best behavior in the privacy
of our homes.
            How do Jesus' words on love apply to family members?

 

Some churches have a sentence in the communion liturgy about
reconciliation. The congregation takes the symbolic action of "passing
the peace" with one another, and are cautioned not to sin by taking
the body and blood of Jesus amiss if we have an unsettled quarrel
with someone.
            Would you be able to pass such a test?
            Did you ever refuse the bread and wine because you felt
                        animosity toward another person?

 
There was a song written by Peter Scholtes which we sang in the '70's,
entitled, "They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love."
            Do people know you are a follower of Jesus because of the way
                        you love people? 
If you're like most of us, there's room for improvement.
            What can you do to fulfill your image of what a Christian should be?

Jesus is saying something important about God in these verses--
God is for you, not against you.
            Is it easy or hard for you to believe this?
Some people think their troubles come from a punishing God.
            How could you convince them to believe instead that
                        God is good and full of grace and mercy?

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