Lenten Devo #22—Love Your Enemies
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Matthew 5:43-47)
The point is that we will be distinguished when we love our enemies. No one does that. After Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire's there came one Emperor Julian, a pagan who wanted to restore the pre-Christian dominance of the Roman pantheon of gods. He complained to a pagan priest, though, that the pagans couldn't compete with Christians because they take care of their own poor "and ours as well, [and] all men see that our people lack aid from us!" People were drawn to Christ because they saw Christians loving their enemies.
When we love our enemies we reflect the God who loved us and gave himself for us while we were still his enemies. It's pattern imitation. But more to the point, we can love lavishly and extravagantly (what else is loving your enemy?) because we know that our welfare (present and future) is secure, kept by Christ. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. More than anyone else, we are free to love.
Loving our enemies is a witness to the loving character of God. And it is an opportunity to pray for those who persecute us—to pray that God would love them as he loved us and shine his light on them, saving them from the condemnation that, without Christ, we would all be due.
Who are you praying for today?