Jesus said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43).
No Joke. Love your enemies. Before voting on the appropriateness of Jesus command to “love our enemies” (FYI…there is no vote. Jesus said it. Period.) can we answer the big question: Who is our enemy?
Internationally, our enemies have been Russia (we’ve never trusted those guys); China (not sure we can trust those guys either); and Iran (terrorism’s #1 sponsor for years). There’s probably a couple of other countries in the mix, but for simplicity sake, let’s stick with Russia, China and Iran. Jesus says, “Love them.” No problem, Jesus! It’s easy to do. I love Russian, Chinese and Iranian people. They aren’t their government. They are people. Let’s not blame innocent people for the bone-headed decisions of their governments. Loving them is relatively easy. “I love my enemies,” I say, as I firmly pat myself on the back.
But what about the “enemies” that we don’t label as “enemies”? These folks go by different labels, such as: liberals, conservatives, progressives, fundamentalists, Vaxxers, Anti-Vaxxers, BLM protestors, MAGA supporters, Republicans, Democrats, Mask-wearing sheep, Covid-Super-spreaders, LBGTQ+ supporters, LBGTQ+ “what-do-all-those-letters-even-mean?” wonderers, etc. Pick your hated label bearer and sneer.
We don’t like what they are supporting or doing. We think that they are wrong. Biblically wrong. We think we are right. Biblically right. We hate everything about them. We hate how they think. We hate how they behave. We hate the positions that they hold. We don’t trust them. They have secret meetings. Hidden agendas. We think they are hurting our country, church or future existence. If they get their way, we are all in trouble. We might not publically state that we hate them, but we hate them all right. Maybe we wouldn’t kill them, but we hate them. We don’t want them showing up at our parties wearing T-shirts or hats supporting their views. We don’t want them living on our block putting up yard signs and flags. We don’t want them in our church touting their false perspective? Why would they be in our church? They clearly can’t love Jesus.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He wasn’t simply talking about international politics and people we would never meet. He was talking about that guy down the street with the sign in his lawn supporting the groups we don’t like. He was talking about the lady singing in the choir on Sunday and attending opposing political rallies on Monday. He was talking about that (you choose): Double-mask-wearing-full-of-fear-Dr-Fauci fan or Only-wearing-a-mask-if-skiing-or-robbing-a-bank extremist. Jesus point: Love all of them. Every single one of them.
Loving people that hold a different view than me is hard. Loving people in the church who say, do or believe things different from me is downright awkward. Loving people, who might not be labeled as “enemies” but I treated them as such, is much harder than loving our stated (but never seen) international enemies like Russia, China and Iran.
Wouldn’t it have been better if Jesus would have said, “Be sarcastic, mean, and rude toward the people you don’t like, just don’t say you ‘hate’ them.” Or “Don’t call the people you hate “enemies.” Give them a different label, but keep on hating.” Or how about, “Love your enemies if there’s an ocean that separates you both.” At the very least, Jesus could have said, “Try to stomach your enemies and avoid them whenever possible.” We could probably abide by those rules. But love them? Really love them? Love them like I love my kids or grandkids? Love them like I love a long-lost friend? Who can do that? Not me. I hate those guys. Only Jesus can love like that.
Jesus, help me to love my enemies (no matter how I label them).