For the sake of February, I am challenging us to look at how we love those around us. You can read the first post by clicking here. Frankly, loving our loved ones is easy so we’re skipping the fluff and going straight to things that make us fidget awkwardly. Jesus bids us: “Love your enemies” and when he says love he really means prefer, esteem, and honor those who have the potential to infuriate us.
This is the hard work of love. This is also the foundation of connection.
But not the way you think of hard work and not the way you think of connection. There will be no “grin and bear it”. It’s not a try-harder kind of thing. Loving our enemies is really not about them.
It’s about you. It starts with you and truly, you may be the only one who benefits.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
I am making an assumption that you have prayed the prayer of salvation (see Romans 10:9 ) and have begun a relationship with Jesus, seeking to be known and to know the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. (If I have assumed wrong- please email me personally)
So let’s recap that salvation thing right there. You broke every law in the book and offended your very Creator. You are not perfect and never will be. Hence your need for Jesus, for the salvation He offers through the cross.
Jesus transformed you, you are a redeemed sinner, one lost soul saved by grace. God sees you as righteous and beautiful. You are free from the entanglements of sin. You are loved, not because of your action or because you deserved it, you are loved because He is love. You are L O V E D. Not tolerated, not put up with. You, sweet wounded one, are loved.
Let that settle a bit.
You used to be God’s enemy. But God doesn’t see you as what you’ve done or who you used to be. You are no longer defined by your actions, now you are defined by your connection, your relationship to Him. You are loved. This is the first thing. The first step in loving others, is understanding that you, yourself, are unconditionally and everlastingly loved.
God’s love became recognizable to you when your sins were forgiven. With this love, you were positioned to connect with Him. Forgiveness was the key that unlocked that love connection. Before love can reside in the midst of your connections with others, you must first forgive them. I once heard forgiveness explained like this: You have forgiven someone when you no longer define them by their offense.
It is tough to redefine someone when they are an abuser or have severely wronged you in some way. So before we go any further lets get clear. Forgiveness does not mean boundary-less. It does not mean old patterns of behavior can resume. Forgiveness is healing for you, YOU the victim. It’s freedom. Forgiveness redefines identity. You are no longer the victim- but the survivor. And they are no longer the enemy, but someone also in need of a Savior.
Loving your enemies starts by forgiving them. I promise you, with prayer and humility before the Lord, this is possible. Begin by praying openly and honestly to Him about your feelings, your struggles, your fears in this situation. Lay every wound, in detail, at the foot of the cross. God will begin to show you things, restoring things about you and how you see your enemy. Honesty and openness in vulnerable prayer before God are your tools in giving forgiveness.
Next, pray for your enemy. Pray for their blessing. Pray for their well-being. Yes, friends, pray for your enemies the way you want to be prayed for. If you just can’t do that yet- start by praying Psalm 36 over you and them- substituting their name when you see the word “people”.
Prayer releases in the spiritual what you can’t yet see or feel in the natural.
WITH LOVE, YOU CAN LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
When Jesus says to “love” your enemies, that word – love- in the original Greek means agape love. Perfect love, Holy love. Friend, Jesus is the ONLY source for agape love. You can’t muster it up, it won’t be a feeling. To love your enemy, love with God’s love. To love those who mock you, those who frustrate you, those who hurt you – to love them, really love them with agape love, you’ll have to go through God.
The difference between tolerance and love is it’s source. Tolerance is sourced by behavior. Love is sourced in identity.
Just like you, your enemy needs forgiveness from the Savior.
Just like you, your enemy needs redemption from the Cross.
Just like you, your enemy needs empowerment from the Holy Spirit.
Just like you, your enemy needs hope from the sovereignty of God.
Loving when you want to hate is not an act of will, it is an act of surrender to the love you’ve received. As you stand before God, washed in His love for you, look at your enemies through His eyes. In that perspective you’ll find the source of love for them. By receiving His love, you’ll have love to give.