“Love Your Enemies”: Does God Do It?

canstockphoto0621448A few years ago my parents became friends with a young man from their church who was studying to be a doctor in the Navy. He had finished medical school and was entering residency.

He told them once that one of the things he did to prepare himself for residency was to intubate himself. I don’t know if it was through his nose or mouth, but he pushed a breathing tube down his throat and into his lung.

My parents were incredulous, as you might imagine. They asked him if it hurt, and he said it was very uncomfortable.

When they asked him why he did it, he said, “Because if I am going to do that to my patients I need to know what it feels like.”

Which is why I never would have made it through medical school. I have to brace myself to pull a Band-Aid off of my arm.

This comes to mind when I think about Jesus’ command to us in Matthew 5:44 that we must love our enemies and bless those who persecute us.

It is a command, by the way. As followers of Jesus, we don’t get a choice in the matter. If we refuse to love our enemies and bless them, then we are not really following Jesus. (Most translations say “pray” but everywhere else this word is translated “bless,” which is preferable because I have a feeling that some of our prayers for our enemies might fall short of a real blessing.)

Let me repeat that: we are not really following Jesus if we don’t love our enemies and ask God to bless them. Jesus makes that clear when he follows up the command with “…so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven.”

In tying one to the other Jesus is saying that we are children when we act like the Father. This is how the Father acts, loving his enemies and blessing those who curse him.

“Like father, like son,” we say. Similarly, when our daughter Angela does something that is very typical of me Pam will say, “She’s her father’s daughter.”

We’re talking behavior, not genetics.

So when we love our enemies, we’re reflecting the Father’s behavior and character.

Which makes it hard to understand the teaching that many of us received that our sin makes us enemies to God, which leads him to want to destroy us.

Granted, it was never put to me in such stark terms, that God considered me his enemy, but it was hard to escape that conclusion. I was told that my sin was rebellion against God, an affront to his pure character, a rejection of his place in my life.

I had usurped his authority, rebelled against his lordship.

I removed him from the throne of my life and took my place there instead. clip_image002

There was even a diagram that showed me (“s”= self) sitting on the throne of my heart while Christ (the little cross) has been cast completely outside.

A coup d’état.

I was therefore not just a sinner, but a sinner in the hands of an angry God! He couldn’t wait to cast me into hell! “On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulfur.” (Psalm 11:6 NRSV)

I was even told that when Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” that God had turned his back on his own Son because in that moment Jesus had become sin, our sin, my sin.

My sin caused the Father to turn his back on his only begotten? Really?

Doesn’t sound like a blessing to me. Doesn’t sound like in that moment the Father was loving his own son, much less his enemy.

No, no, and no.

The Father has never turned his back on his Son.

And he has never turned his back on us.

God’s very nature is love, and it is a form of idolatry to think that our sin is big enough to get God to go against his nature.

God would never give us a command that he himself had not kept. It’s not incorrect to say that God sent Jesus to bring salvation to us, but let’s be clear: God didn’t send someone else to die for us. Jesus is not a surrogate for God, doing something the Father was so angry about that he couldn’t do it himself.

Jesus is God, which means the Father was personally involved in the work that Jesus accomplished, including and especially dying on the cross because of our sins.

I seriously doubt that God has ever considered any of us, no matter how sinful, as his enemy, but even if so, he would never stop loving us, never stop blessing us, never stop pursuing us, never stop seeking us.

Because that’s what fathers do.

The world may glorify those who kill their enemies, but that is not the way of Christ.

He called us to act like the Father.

Then climbed on a cross to show us how to do it.

Image by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / badboo01

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