Love Your Enemies

The idea of loving our enemies is hard for a lot of people to swallow. But even those who are the most skeptical of Jesus’ claims and the most critical of Jesus’ teaching have to admit—He took His own medicine. He took it without resisting the spoon, without complaining about the test and without adding the slightest bit of sugary sentimentality to help the medicine go down. 

Follow the narrative of Jesus’ last 24 hours, and see how He took it. What you see and hear is the best visual aid to the Sermon on the Mount you could ever find. Look and listen…and you will fall even more in love with Him than you are now.

Judas. Jesus chose him as one of the 12 and all the while knowing that one day he would betray Him. For three and a half years Jesus walked with him, talked with him, ate with him, ministered with him. He befriended one who would turn into an enemy when Jesus most needed a friend. That final night in the upper room, Jesus washed Judas feet, just as He had done for the other disciples. He dined with the man who would soon turn the tables on Him. He spoke kindly to him, never once berating him for his betrayal. And He fed part of the Passover meal to him with His own hands, dismissing Judas in hushed tones so as not to publicly humiliate him in front of the other disciples (see John 13:21-30)

Peter. Jesus warned him ahead of time about his defection. To soften the blow: Jesus explained to Peter that it wasn’t all his fault, that Satan had a hand in it, too. For this man who would deny not only his friendship with Jesus but even his acquaintance with Him, Jesus prayed. He prayed, and He told Peter, essentially, not to let the failure destroy him, that He still loved him, still believed in him, still thought he was the right man for the job (see Luke 22:31-32). And after Jesus rose from the dead, He sought out Peter, especially Peter, because Peter especially needed to be found and brought home to the Savior’s loving arms (see John 21:15-19).

Malchus. He was the high priest’s servant who accompanied the soldiers when they arrested Jesus in the garden. In a rash move to defend Jesus, Peter drew his sword and cut off a portion of the servant’s ear. Jesus’ response?

Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53)

What an incredible restraint of the angelic arsenal He had at His disposal. On His way to the Cross, Jesus wouldn’t allow so much as a sword to slice on His behalf.  

(see Luke 22:51).

The other disciples. Outmanned and out-armed, they deserted Jesus at His most desperate hour. His response? He didn’t call them cowards; instead, He covered for them, explaining that their actions were simply a fulfillment of prophecy: Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered ” (Matthew 26:31).

The religious leaders who tried Him. They accused Jesus falsely and gathered witnesses to testify against Him, again falsely. They hit Him. His response? He didn’t defend Himself, and He didn’t denigrate them. Not returning insult for insult, or injury for injury, He took the fist, silently, bravely, and with a bold resignation that befits a king (see Mark 14:53-65).

The Roman soldiers. Brutal men, they mocked Jesus, draping His shoulders with a purple cape, thrusting a thorny crown into His scalp, and humiliating Him as they took turns beating Him. His response? Again, He took the blows, turned the other cheek, and did not resist the evil that propped Him up and pummeled Him (see Mark 15:16-20).

The crowd that surrounded Him at the Cross. They taunted Jesus, quoting Scriptures to Him, daring Him to prove Himself King, if indeed He was one. His response? He bore the daggers of ridicule, the spears of sarcasm. And He didn’t throw them back. He took it all, and He took it with the nobility of a true king (see Mark 15:29-32).

The soldiers at the Cross. The ones who hammered the nails into His hands, His feet. The ones who raised the Cross into place. And the ones hunched over a pair of dice, gambling for His cloak. His response? For-giveness. And not only that, listen to His plea bargain on their behalf.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’ (Luke 23:34). In other words, Jesus is telling the Father that if the soldiers could only see Him for who He really was, if they knew that He was indeed a king, indeed the Son of God, they would never have done this. Remarkable, when you think about it. Jesus not only forgives His enemies, He defends them.

The two thieves. When you compare the parallel accounts, you discover that both thieves cursed Jesus (see Mark 15:32; Luke 23:39-40). Never once did Jesus curse back. Instead, He gave a blessing to the one who asked to be remembered. The blessing? The man had just asked that Jesus remember Him when He got to His Kingdom. That’s all. And Jesus gave him Paradise. Paradise! In a few hours of witnessing Jesus’ response to His enemies, one of those enemies was transformed into a friend, and remained a friend forever (see Luke 23:42-43).

We are told that when Peter denied Jesus for the third time, a rooster crowed, reminding him of Jesus’ words earlier that night. He turned and saw Jesus looking at him. What he saw were not the eyes of an enemy but the eyes of a friend. And when their eyes met, we are told that Peter went away, weeping bitterly (see Luke 22:60-62). The next day Peter likely approached the Cross, but from afar. He saw Jesus’ enemies, teeth bared like a pack of wolves that had cornered its prey. He heard the insults, the taunts, the mocking, the cursing. And he saw Jesus’ response to them, heard His words and the tone in which the words were spoken. Here is how the example of Jesus impacted him, inspiring his words to fellow believers who were undergoing persecution by their enemies:

For what credit is it that if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps; ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”, who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:20-23).

What Peter saw and heard that day, though it was from a distance as he stood on the periphery, cloaked in anonymity, changed him forever. How could it not? How could anyone not be changed if he or she only knew the story–the whole story of just how much we are loved? (Excerpt from Seeing Through Heaven’s Eyes)

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you today about loving your enemies? Did names or situations come to your mind? This is just an act of His love. I encourage you to lean into the heart of God and let His love wash over you, over your perspective. And then, watch how He will love through you. Now is your time for an upgrade in love.

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