“‘But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’” -Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)
When we have been the victim of injustice and insult, the command to love our enemies seems ludicrous. Human tendency is to seek retribution for wrongs through our own wisdom and might. If someone strikes us, our instant reaction is to strike them ten times as hard. If we have become the subject of torment and ridicule, our most treasured desire is the day when we can inflict the same misery upon our oppressors. Yet this is how the cycle of hatred and violence begins; by a simple yearning to get even. The moment we let vengeance to invade our hearts, we will be consumed by an insatiable rage. Revenge will distort our image of people and propel us to take pleasure in committing horrible acts that we thought we would never carry out. Though we may think that we are able to master these unbridled emotions, in actuality we become slaves to our hate and bitterness.
Our unwillingness to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us often stems from the misconception that to do so is a sign of timidity and weakness, along with an acceptance of the wrongs that have been exacted upon us. But this is far from the truth. Christ never acknowledged that the injustices committed against Him were inherently virtuous. While suffering on the cross He cried out to God in Luke 23:24, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Yet while He was omnipotent and could have easily overpowered His persecutors, He loved them. Redemption and restoration would not come through violence, but by a love that has no earthly parallel.
Christ went to the cross for the Pharisees who accused Him, for the soldiers who clubbed and tortured Him, for men who nailed Him, and for the crowd who hurled insult after insult while He endured the agony of crucifixion. He did this so that through His death and resurrection they may no longer be slaves to wickedness, but free under His righteousness. As children of Christ we are called to emulate the selfless love shown by Him. But as long as we have made vengeance and hatred our idol, we will never be capable of displaying this love. Only when we have allowed Christ to invade our hearts and have submitted ourselves to His Spirit will His love overflow from our lives. His sweetness is more effective than any weapon and when we make that choice to have it made manifest in ourselves, it will bear witness to those around us of the beauty and freedom that is available through the power of Christ.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.