|protesters and punks (Photo credit: danoxster)|
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his followers principles they had never heard before, and some of which they found difficult to understand. They had been taught, "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot," (Exodus 21: 24), and now here was this young Rabbi telling them, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"( Matthew 5 : 43 - 44).
Jesus' teachings are what set Christianity apart from other religions - teachings of humility, generosity, forgiveness and yes, loving our enemies. We live in a world where people still look to get even with someone who has wronged them, or worse yet, seek revenge. Can you love your enemies?
Jesus told a parable of the Samaritan who saw a man who had been robbed and beaten
lying on the roadside. A priest and a Levite passed by, looked at the man and went their way, but the Samaritan stopped, put him on his animal and took him to an inn where he paid for the man's care. The passage doesn't say what ethnicity the victim was, but I believe the reason Jesus pointed out that it was a Samaritan who took care of the man is because Samaritans and Jews did not speak to each other. Jesus wanted to show that the Samaritan went out of his way to help someone who was not his friend.
Jesus exemplified His own teaching when He cried out on the cross, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23: 34). Forgive them? Jesus could have called ten thousand angels and they would have smitten His enemies and set Him free, but He didn't.
Do you have an enemy or enemies who are making your life miserable? You have to love them. Not because you want to, but because Jesus says you must. Have you considered that that person who behaves in such a hateful manner toward you is probably hurting inside and in desperate need of a friend?
When I was a child we lived next door to a couple who never spoke to us, or anyone in the neighborhood. The husband would wave sometimes when he saw us, but the wife always looked away whenever our eyes met. Sometimes my mother would call to her, but she never responded. One day, my mother decided this had gone on long enough. I don't recall exactly what she did to break the ice, but that lady and my mother became great friends. Not only did she become friends with us, but my mother introduced her to the other neighbors, and they too became friends.
Now that I think about it, that couple probably felt isolated because they were from a different country. Sometimes what may appear to be unfriendliness in someone may really be insecurity or nervousness. If you have an enemy or someone who seems unfriendly,
ask God to give you the courage to reach out to this person. When you show love, you are exhibiting one of the graces of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. He is with you, and will help you.