Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you..


(This post is written for the ‘bless those who curse you campaign‘)

I’ve been a Christian all of my life… I grew up as a pentecostel kid in a post-catholic country that happened to be evolving into one of the final stages of the european dechristianisation. Looking back I learned a lot from both my pentecostel and evangelical (and later as a teenager vineyard) church , and the liberal-sliding-to-atheism catholicism that I encountered in the religion classes in my catholic school.

I learned a lot about the bible, the cross of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the pentecostel church. From my catholic school I didn’t always learn that much about those things, but what remained from Christianity was an emphasis on values that were distilled from Jesus words. An emphasis on loving our neibor, which lead to social justice issues and what I now would call creation care, which was not the most important subject for most people in the pentecostel church… (The world was gonna burn up soon, and Jesus would come to rapture us)

I know now that both sides are important. We canot claim to be Christians without believing in the cross and resurrection of Christ, and we miss a lot if we don’t believe that the Spirit works through us, and neither does it make sense to claim to be a Christian when you don’t care about our fellow humans, or Gods creation. So from those 2 sides I got parts of the puzzle. But still there might have been missing something.

The fundamentalists like to take everything in the bible, as long as it’s just something that need to intellectually believe, or something that can be useful to point out sin in other so we as real believers can separate us from them. But like Shane Claiborne says, most fundamentalism is ‘selective fundamentalism’, and some of the most imortant words seem to be not included in the list of bible verses that are important to believe litterally.

Saint Augustine said something like a bible interpretation that does not lead us to growing further into living out the double law of loving God and our neigbor is always wrong, and one who does, how misguided our ways of thinking might be, is fulfilling it’s purpose… But that’s not the way I’ve seen people read the bible. There are lots of ‘infallible truths’ that are straight from the bible, but it the end they are just interpretations, and someone else might look at the same verses in a totally different way… But one of the verses that I have not seen highlighted very much by fundamentalists and gatekeepers is ‘love your enemies, and bless for those who persecute you’ from Jesus himself in the sermon on the mount.

What is interesting is that if we do this, Jesus says in Matthew 5, we will be called Children of God. Earlier in the sermon on the mount this expression is used for the peacemakers. (Yes, he really did say peacemakers, and NOT cheesemakers!)

Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more? do not even the Gentiles the same?

What a different world it would be if we would indeed live differently as christians and if we all would really follow Christ in our lives, and not just try to have faith in the right orthodox statements of faith. I’m not at all goint to dismiss Christian orthodoxy; it’s important that we know what we believe in, and stuff. But that’s only half the story… We have to live it out.

Jesus never says to make believers of the one true orthodoxy out of the nations, he says us to go the nations, and make disciples. And if a rabbi talks about following him, that’s not just clicking ‘follow’ on a twitter account. It was following the rabbi wherever he went, and he could give you a valuable lesson out of every little thing that happened. It was following with your whole life!

And the core of Jesus message is that law of love. Paul even seems to say that Love is even more important than faith 1 Cor 13… He can not at all mean that faith and hope are not hugely important. No, they are, but love is even more important, and without it even the biggest faith doesn’t matter… And Then there is that little epistle of James, which tells us that a faith without works is dead. And what is the expample of those ‘works’? Taking care of our neigbor, living out the law of love. Works of love!

I has never been Gods will to just have a bunch of people who are just believing all the right Truth, and that’s it. The Truth is important just because it’ll transform us and the world around us when we live it out, because it advances His Kingdom. But if we don’t let it work inside of us, it won’t do a thing. It’s like believing that the sheet music of a symphony ‘is beautiful’ and ‘rightly composed’. If we don’t get together with instruments to play the symphony, we will miss everything, no matter how beautiful the sheet music is…

So Christianity is a way of life. The first Christians called it ‘the way’. And the main componet of the way is the law of love, the double law of love towards God and others. And this is not only restricted to those fellow humans who happen to like us. No, Jesus explicitly tells us to even ‘love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute you’. To repay evil with good, which might be the only way to stop the cylcle of violence…

This is one of the hardest things in the Christian faith to live out. But I do believe that it is of unmeasurable important to do this! Jesus didn’t just come to forgive us in a mystical way, but to transform Creation. It’s true that this world is still under the veil of evil and decay, but we as Kingdom people are called to already embody that reality that will be once true, when all evil will be banished…

So where are our seminars and conferences on enemy love? Where are the books with 30 days of learning pragmatically how to love our enemies the way Jesus told us? Where are the bible fundamentalist who take the words of Jesus litterally and rejoice loudly when they feel persecuted for their faith?

And before I get charismatic and/or calvinist objections, I’m not saying we have to do this all by ourselves. We need the Spirit of God guiding us. But that’s a symbiosis. When we take steps, God will help us, maybe even in a miraculous was… A good example of this is the famous story ofrry Ten Boom and the concentration camp guard. Her family had been hiding people who were running from the nazis in the second world war, and when they got caught they were deported to concentration camps. She and her sister were taken to Ravensbruck, where her sister dies, and she got a trauma…

A few years later she is preaching in germany, about forgiveness, and suddenly one of the guards, who had treated her cruelly, was there, asking to hear from her that he was forgiven. It seems impossible for a human to do such a thing. But the miracle of the love of God came only when she, knowing both that forgiving was the only optian for her,- and that she could only forgive as a act of will, accepted to shake his hand regardless of all feelings.

It’s nice and comfortable when we reduce the Christian faith to a system of beliefs and theological statements about how Jesus’ death will help us to not go to hell but to heaven after this life. But that’s not what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God! And the Kingdom of God requires us to live in a Kingdom way, and not in the ways of the world.

The way of the Kingdom life can be found in places like the sermon on the mount. Jesus’ sacrifice was a victory over evil, death, sin and hell, but it was also the ultimate example for us of how far the law of love can go! There is no reason at all to place those 2 aspects of Jesus death against each other, they are connected and should not be separated!

So, I already asked the question; how can we learn more how to love our enemies? When are we going to give ourselves for Jesus’ Kingdom, instead of ‘taking the country for God’.

Let us pray

Our  Father
who is in heaven
Let Your Kingdom come
Let Your will be done
in every aspect of our lives
as in heaven
teach us to listen to Your Spirit
fill us with self-giving love
not only for those who like us
but to our enemies
so that they can see the Kingdom in us
whether they like it or not
Make us light and salt
to live out your law of love
and bring on Your Kingdom
so that Your name, Father
will be glorified
Amen

shalom

Bram

This post is part of the Bless Those Who Curse You Campaign’s Synchroblog. Others blogging on this topic:

David Henson at Unorthodoxology: Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

George Elerick at The Love Revolution: Toxicity

Brian Ammons at Nekkid Ressurrection: Loving Those Who Curse Us

Tia Lynn Lecorchick at Loving Our Enemies: Where to Begin?

Mark Sandlin at The God Article: A Call to Political Authenticity for Christians

Danielle Shroyer: “A Prayer for our enemies….And for Us.”


7 responses to “Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you..

  1. Great article and great need!

  2. Good thoughts–reminds me of many of the things have been reading in Eugene Peterson’s “practice resurrection”, he also came from a pentecostal upbringing

  3. DoStudyDontJustReadTheBible

    .

    When the Bible says that people are to pray “FOR”
    their enemies — it does NOT mean to pray that God
    will “bless” the enemy (materialistically-speaking).

    IT MEANS that the person is to pray “IN REGARDS TO”
    the enemy — in other words — rather than to try to seek
    a ‘personal revenge’ against the person — they are to,
    instead, “bring the matter to God” and to let God
    “do whatever it takes” for the enemy to either be
    brought to ‘repentance’ or to suffer ‘repercussions’.

    Only someone who is truly ignorant in studying the
    Bible (in the original Greek and Hebrew in which it
    was originally written) would ever be so arrogant or
    foolish as to think that Christ would command that
    His followers pray for Him to materiallistally-“bless”
    someone who is trying to destroy His own followers.

    God says that He WILL take-vengeance on His
    enemies AND on the enemies of His followers (who,
    by the way, are also the enemies of God, by default).

    When someone is causing or serving as a major hindrance,
    obstacle or source of torture in the life of a servant of God
    — God COMMANDS that His servants are to then “bring
    the matter to Him” (i.e. pray “FOR” / “IN REGARDS TO”)
    that person and “let God deal with them as they deserve”.

    Again – to “pray FOR” one’s enemy means that one
    is “praying IN REGARDS TO” that enemy – just
    as to “bless” one’s enemy means that one decides to
    ‘share with them the blessed good news of the gospel
    of Jesus Christ’ (thus, giving them the opportunity to
    serve and follow Him) rather than to ‘curse’ them
    (by not sharing the gospel) into an eternity in hell. =D

    .

    • You forgot the main message of JEsus here: LOVE your enemy! What Jesus is doing here in the sermon on the mount is ammending the law, and radicalising it into enemy-love. Jesus clearly commands enemy-love of hs followers here and in Luke 6; and the ones with whom we don’t get along with are included in the commandment to love our neigbors (see the gospels,, but also Gal 5:14)

      you are the one who’s reading your theology into the verse, which does not do well in the context of the sermon on the mount, were we are now. your interpretations and explaining away of ‘blessing’ and cursing as having to do solely with telling the ‘gospel’ are eisegesis. The sermon on the mount nor the rest of the gospels do allow for such an interpretation. The gospel in the gospels is about more than getting our souls saved anyway. The gospel in the gospels is about the coming of the Kingdom of God in power, which is a whole lot more.

      And if you know the culture, you konw that Jesus speaks about blessing everyone in verse 47, where he talks about greeting. The greeting was wishing shalom to each other. Which means a lot more than our idea of ‘absense of war’. Shalom is a more wholistic peace with God, our neigbors and the whole world, including material blessing. Nowhere does the bible speak of a blessing that’s only material, the material blessing is only an outward part of the wholistic blessing of shalom.

  4. I appreciate your post ‘brambonius’. I think it is possible that ‘DoStudyDontJustReadTheBible’ is actually on the same page as
    you are though the articulation is not exactly the same. They are someone who is obviously looking to ‘live out’ kingdom life in at least attempting to apply the blessing of enemies? Though I continue to grow in grace, my application of this is that I can cheerfully pray for the souls of those who act like enemies. I’m coming to realize that blessing begins spiritually first so if the person is open to spiritual increase, they would eventually manifest physical increase and no longer act like an enemy of Christ?! This topic is important for the kingdom, no doubt!!! Since we are to hate evil, we can not praise the actions of evil doers and sometimes Jesus did confront people with at least a question. “if I have done wrong, tell me, otherwise, why do you smite me”? This was different than just smiting them back.:)
    Just my thoughts…

  5. I have been praying about how to love my enemies and I googled and found this blog. What you wrote was really helpful. I would love to chat some time. Email me and if you like we can talk over Skype? Bless you and thanks for sharing your insight. Peter

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