The Law of Love
But I say unto you, Love your enemies
Many people have heard of the Sermon on the Mount. That is the lecture Christ gave which the oft quoted “Beatitudes” appear. You know, the ones that go, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth,” et cetera? There was actually much more to that lecture than the beatitudes.
Christ went up the mountain, somewhere near Galilee, sat down and began lecturing on the life his followers should begin living. They were not “Christians” at that time. Most were Jewish, some where gentiles. He addressed things from those attitudes, to His relationship to the Law of Moses, anger, adultery, and more. Today, I want to take a look at what is called the Law of Love.
Matthew 5: 43, 44
43: You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. 44: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them who curse you, do good to them who hat you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
Love your enemies
Jesus doesn’t play. He comes out strong here telling the followers that what they thought was correct, love your neighbor and hate your enemy, is no longer how they must live. From that point forward they are to love their enemy. It had to be a shock.
In the days of Christ, the enemy wasn’t the guy down the hall trying to steal your job, or ruin your career. The enemy were tribes of idol worshippers who wanted nothing less than to enslave you, murder you, or make you a human sacrifice.
How can you love someone who wants you dead? It isn’t easy. In fact, you cannot achieve it successfully without a relationship with Christ. Once you believe, the Holy Spirit is sent to you to help you learn to live for Him. The Spirit provides daily guidance, and strength necessary to succeed. You will still falter, and may fail, but the Spirit helps you back to the path. You will learn to love enemies enough to pray for them.
Bless them who curse you
No, saying, “Bless his heart,” when someone swears at you doesn’t count. In the days of Christ there were a lot of superstition. People believed in evil signs, or that having a pagan priest say some words and burn some vegetation could impart a curse on someone, and possibly their decedents.
The blessing Christ was speaking of was the kind you give to people you want nice things to happen to. For example, when a child comes to you and says, “Father, I want to move to California to find myself, but I will not go without your blessings.” The father might reply, “My son, may your search for self-identity be full of wonder and enlightenment.”
So, Christ is telling his followers, if someone tries to put a curse on you, say something like, “May your eyes be opened to the one true God, and may your heart be turned from its godless ways.” Then, you go about your own business knowing you are a child of God.
Do good to them who hate you
A pastor used to tell the story of a congregant who struggled with hate for an elderly neighbor. The neighbor was just mean, and most of the community despised him. The congregant, a Christian man, knew he was commanded to love his neighbor. He frequently asked God, in prayer, how he could overcome this hatred. When he finally heard God speak to his heart, the Lord said three little words:
“Cut his grass.”
The obedient congregant hated cutting grass. Yet, he filled up his lawnmower, and headed across the street to the elderly man’s home. He had only been cutting a few minutes when the elderly man came out, fussing and cussing, demanding to know what was going on.
“Your grass needs mowed. I am mowing it.”
The elderly man was stunned. After a few minutes staring at his neighbor cutting his grass she shouted, “I ain’t payin ya!” and went inside.
The obedient congregant cut grass for his neighbor that summer and most of the next. Then the day came that he realized he didn’t mind cutting the grass, the elderly man wasn’t a bad guy, just lonely and struggling with age related pain and frustrations.
A week later the elderly man knocked on the congregant’s door and asked, “Where have ya been? The grass needs cut.” To which the congregant replied, “Well, last year I was convicted in my spirit because I didn’t like you. The Lord told me I was to cut your grass until I no longer felt that way. And, well, now that I like you I don’t have to cut your grass anymore.”
Okay, that was a really bad story, but it is based on a true one. I just don’t retell them well. This one would relate to the guy down the hall trying to ruin your career. You may hate him (or her) because of things he has done against you. Like those listening to the lecture Jesus gave, we are instructed not to hate, regardless. No ifs/ands/buts about it.
If you are going to follow Him you must strive to achieve this. You won’t do it on your own. You must pray, listen, and obey. It probably won’t be easy, either.
Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you
The scenario that stays atop my mind for this one is the divorced parent. I have witnessed more than my fair-share of vengeful, spiteful, and simply mean actions by divorced parents of both sexes. I have received the phone calls from female friends who hate the idea their ex is dating. They don’t want their child in the house when “that woman” is there. I have also heard men talking about their ex being a whore for dating “that bastard” and he doesn’t want “his” money paying for their (fill-in-the-blank).
The situation almost always devolves into a hate-fest of reports to child protective services, calls to the attorney to go back for more/less child support, or to restrict visitation. The children are used as a get even tool against the other parent. As followers of Christ we should not be doing this.
Notice Christ does not tell us to remain in the situation. Do what you can to get away from the person using or persecuting you. We ARE commanded to pray for anyone mistreating us.
You may need to first ask for the strength and wisdom to pray for someone like that. In fact, that would be a great thing to do. While God hears our unspoken needs, and He hears the groaning of our spirit when we can’t find the right words asking Him to help you find those words is beneficial. Then, pray that the offender’s heart will be softened, and their eyes opened to the damage they are doing with their behavior, and that they will repent to God and change their ways.
In all these commands we have to separate the person, the creature created by God in His image, from the behavior. It is not uncommon for non-believers to laugh when Christians say they love the sinner, and hate the sin. The sin is the action. The action results from a thought. The thought grew from a seed sown by a spirit dedicated to the destruction of humankind.
Adam and Eve were made perfect. They lived in perfection. Satan whispered into the ear of Eve, planting the seed of rebellion. Eve ate of the fruit, then Adam did, and you know the rest.
We are commanded to love the person, the human, the image of God, not the behavior.