“But I tell you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27
I had every reason to hate her. She attacked me with hate-filled words. She criticized me as a mother and as a Christian, attacked my faith, criticized my decisions and filled her tirade with contempt. Her words spilled over with venom and spite. She even brought her friends in to throw their barbs at me. She clearly hated me. Wasn’t I justified in hating her?
To the world, yes. I had every justification to hate her and attack her back. To throw around a few barbs and verbal missiles of my own. That’s what she was trying to do, to bate me into a verbal battle. That’s what she deserves right? I should call my friends and bash her just as badly as she bashed me.
But I don’t live by the code of the world. I live by the Word of God and the example of Jesus Christ.
So the next day, my heart still heavy with pain and grief, as I came to my early morning time with the Lord, I prayed about the situation. I asked God for wisdom. He had witnessed this conversation. He was aware of the hate this person has for me. Surely He would say my anger is justified. I sat down and opened my first devotional reading for the day. Colossians 3:13 – “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The next devotional reading took me to Luke 6:27, our key verse. “But I tell you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Wait God…what? Forgive? Love? Do good? Bless? Pray? Did you even pay attention to that whole mess at all God? I am the one who got bashed here! Why should I have to be the one to forgive and do good and bless? And love? You really can’t be serious!
I turned to the last devotional Scripture for the morning, Matthew 5:43-48. “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, that you may be sons [and daughters] of your Father in Heaven” (v. 44-45). And there it was. God was not telling me I was justified in my anger. He was telling me if I wanted to live the genuine Christian life, I couldn’t respond like the world responds. He was telling me that I had to live in a radically different way. He was telling me that if I want to be His daughter, I must love my enemy.
And the truth is, no person is truly my enemy. Paul says “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). No man or woman is our enemy. We have only one enemy, Satan. He is the one who is behind every act of hate and every attack for man against man. Retaliation only breeds more hatred and keeps the battle going, and this is what our real enemy is trying to accomplish. Whatever is done against me, by the hands or words of another person, Satan is the force behind it. He is my enemy. If I keep this truth in mind, I can respond to another person’s attacks with forgiveness, I can pray for them, and yes, I can even love them.
I must confess, the “love” part is not as easy to do as it sounds on paper. And as I read those Scriptures, I had to tell God, “I can’t do this on my own. The only way I can love this person is if you help me. You have to love her through me, because I can’t God – it’s not in me.” And that is the whole point. I can’t. Love –genuine love – has to come from God. That’s what the Apostle John says, “Let us love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7). Listen to this, “We know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16). I can only love the one who hates and mistreats me because God loves me, and His love fills me up and spills out onto the one I cannot love on my own.
My heart was hurt. The attack was brutal. The pain was severe. But this person isn’t just someone I can write off and walk away from. I have been called by God to respond in a Christ-like manner. I have been called to forgive and bless and pray and love. But I desperately need help. Only God can overcome my human heart that wants withhold love and protect itself from abuse and hurt. Only God can help me to love. Because He is love.
Merciful, loving Father, please I pray, take my broken heart, my battered spirit and my mind that is full of turmoil and apply the healing balm of Your love and peace. I cannot love in my own strength – the truth is, in my own nature, I don’t want to love. But this is what you have called me to do. Help me Abba, to soak up Your love so that I can love, even in the face of hate. Amen.