love your enemies

The kind of love which Jesus taught and lived out to the end was a love that embraced all. A love like the Father in heaven, who sends his blessings of earth on everyone. We are told to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us. To pray for them. To not resist evil with evil, but resist it with good. To be merciful even as our Father in heaven is merciful. That would seem to give this a salvation bent. In other words we do this with the hope of winning them over to the faith. And we do it out of love for Christ in our following him.

It becomes apparent sometimes that those we count as friends or even brothers or sisters in Jesus can seem to have become enemies, opposed to us in every direction. I’m not sure how to look at this. I remember the passage that talks about how we’re to correct an erring member of the family in Jesus. We’re not to count them as enemies, but to warn them as fellow believers. Of course we must do so in love.

And the passage where Jesus tells us what to do when a fellow believer sins, or sins against us. How we’re to confront them with the truth so as to bring them to repentance, they and we alone. And if they don’t respond take one or two others along with us to try to win them over. But if they still don’t, then it’s to be told to the church and if they don’t listen to the church, then they are excommunicated. Then we can begin to try to befriend and win them over as those who need to be converted. Even if the relationship may render that difficult. Jesus doesn’t mention this latter part, but I think it’s a correct application of his teaching and of scripture.

It is true, however that we’re told not to eat or associate with one who claims to be a believer, but who is living in sin. This is seen in that passage as a form of judgment. The church is to impose that judgment so that the leaven of sin won’t grow and corrupt the church.

All of this will require much prayer. We often need a change of heart ourselves, because we can react bitterly against those who hurt us. Or we can lash out at them, and become hard in our hearts. Anything less than love to them no matter what is unacceptable, not being in the way of Jesus.

We do need to act with wisdom. To be wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves. To lay low when need be, perhaps even to flee. To perhaps withdraw so as to be sure our own heart is right, as well as to bathe the matter in prayer.

In all of this our desire should be to follow Jesus. And to do so together. As the light of the world and the salt of the earth in Jesus. That others might see our good works, and praise our Father in heaven.