I’m telling you to love your enemies and do good to them. Lend to people without expecting to get anything back. If you do this, you will have a great reward. You will be children of the Most High God. Yes, because God is good even to the people who are full of sin and not thankful. Luke 6:35
“I do not want to do it! I cannot do it! But help me do it anyway.”
Bridging The Gap
I am ashamed of it, but I must confess its truth. I have read this verse numerous times without ever really considering what it means. Recently, I have had to consider it more closely.
Law school is not a safe place. God is not mentioned there. It is a place where religion is a byword. Needless to say, my trip to law school significantly challenged to my way of thinking. Life is no longer neat and clean.
The difficulties I faced in school did not come from wicked unbelievers who assaulted my faith by spewing forth heresies. Rather, my troubles arose from my reading of Scripture. My challenges materialized when I realized that Jesus was not merely calling me to be “pure,” but to be and do something entirely new. He was asking me to “love my enemies.”
Now, you say, “What is the problem? You seem like a nice chap, and therefore probably did not have any enemies in school. And, even if you did, why could you not love them?”
I Do Not Want To! I cannot do it!
Well, there were two reasons why I could not love them. Ready?
First, my classmates were really bad people. I mean it! I will not list my reasons for saying this, as I am sure that you can imagine some gross sins without my assistance (and your imagination would probably be right in this case).
As a “good” person, I had nothing in common with these people--nothing! As a result, I was neither universally liked nor appreciated. I would even say that I had some enemies. I came to terms with this reality. I was even content with leaving them alone. “At least I will remain pure,” I thought.
But then everything changed. I read Luke 6:35: “I’m telling you to love your enemies and do good to them. Lend to people without expecting to get anything back. If you do this, you will have a great reward. You will be children of the Most High God. Yes, because God is good even to the people who are full of sin and not thankful.”
I told God that I could not do it. I said, “They are awful! They do not like me! I do not like them! I simply cannot love them!” I really struggled with the idea of loving my enemies.
Despite my resistance, Luke 6:35 did not change. I really wanted it to change, but it did not budge. Finally, I gave in and told God that I was willing to do it--to love those scofflaws.
This brought me to the second hurdle, which was twice as challenging as the first. This obstacle was more difficult because Jesus had something specific in mind when He said, “love your enemies.” He did not mean for the command to merely be aspirational. Rather, the text was to be applied practically. This troubled me because I wanted to love my classmates inwardly. You know, I expected to think happy thoughts about my enemies and maybe, if they were lucky, I would smile at them once in a while.
Well that is not what Jesus had in mind.
Right there in Luke 6:35, I read that we are to “do good” to our enemies. To give, expecting nothing in return. Then I read that we are to “forgive” our enemies (verse 37). And, finally, I went to Matthew’s rendition of the passage and found that I was to “pray” for my enemies (Matthew 5: 44). Jesus wanted me to do three things to love those “evil” people. I was to: serve; forgive; and pray for them.
When I realized what God wanted me to do, I seriously considered returning to what I fondly refer to as my “purity theology” because I recognized that it was a lot easier to keep myself clean by avoiding flawed people than to actually practice Bible religion.
I again had a choice.
After much deliberation, I surrendered to God. I attempted to put His words into practice. Although my efforts were by no means perfect, I worked to fulfill Christ’s calling to serve, forgive, and pray for my enemies.
I do not know if my efforts changed my classmates. I can honestly say, however, that applying God’s word to my life changed me. It helped me realize that I was not so good after all--that I, like my classmates, was in need of grace (I highly recommend the word “grace”; if you have not done so already, add it to your lexicon, for it is grace that helps us do the impossible--to be aligned with God).
Grace bridges the gap
I graduated in May of this year. Just prior to commencement, some of the younger students at the law school formed a Christian organization. This organization is still going strong today. I like to think that God’s realignment of my thinking may have helped establish this group and ultimately changed my school for Christ’s sake.
Now, think what God can do if we continue to take Him at His word! Blessings!