Taken from Pete’s series What Will Jesus Do?.
Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?
— Abraham Lincoln
Jesus has a very specific directive regarding our treatment of those who have wronged us or mistreated us. He says we are to love them. That’s not easy. In fact, it would be easier to ignore them, and maybe easier yet to tell them off at every given opportunity.
But love our enemies? How?
Well, Jesus has some ideas. He says, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them” (Luke 6:27b-29).
Before we look at how we’re supposed to treat our enemies, let’s look at how our enemies might treat us. In this list, Jesus defines the actions of an enemy:
- “Hate” implies active ill will in words and conduct. It’s a persecutor’s spirit.
- “Curse” means to wish evil and ruin on someone.
- “Mistreat” means to insult and to spite.
- To slap someone is to cause physical hurt or pain.
- To take a coat is to steal someone’s property. This property can be physical or intellectual, right?
What an amazing little picture of how our enemies treat us. They will have ill will toward us, wish evil upon us, insult us, hurt us, and steal from us.
And Jesus wants us to love them (Luke 6:27a). Not ignore them or tell them off, but love them.
Love them by doing good. Love them by blessing them. Love them by praying for them. Love them by showing gentleness. Love them by showing generosity.
It’s beautiful, but it also seems impossible. What do we do when something seems impossible? The way I see it, we have two choices: we can ignore Jesus... or we can initiate a conversation with God who happens to specialize in making the impossible possible—and then trust Him to do it through us.
Lord, lead me in the dance of surrender this week toward someone who’s treated me badly—so I will bless a difficult someone, whether in conversation or action. Give me words to pray for those I’d rather forget. Relax my fists and give me an open hand, so I’ll be both generous and gentle with my enemies. Amen.