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Love (even) your enemies

February 15, 2022

Daily Scripture

Matthew 5:43-46

Matthew 5:43-46

43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?

Daily Reflection & Prayer

How did Pastor Burton move forward after 20 years of unfair detention? He lived into the gritty realities of what Jesus taught about tragedy or suffering. Jesus was not much concerned with assigning blame for the bad things that happen in life, but rather with bringing healing. He told his followers that God doesn’t cause bad things to occur, but rather finds ways to redeem even those when they happen.

  • How do you understand “love your enemies”? Do you believe Jesus meant altering your emotions to feel more affectionate toward them, or reaching beyond your emotions to act for their good? What kind of growth in character and maturity does it take to love your enemies? Jesus said God makes it rain on the just and the unjust alike. How can you become more like God in your willingness to bless anyone who needs it?
  • Pastor Hamilton wrote, “God does not take from us our freedom, nor does God miraculously deliver us from the consequences of our actions or the actions of others…. God does promise to sustain us and force good to come from the painful things we experience in this life.” * Do you accept Jesus’ picture of God as a just, loving, merciful parent, not a monster who makes bad things happen to us? How does your picture of God shape your whole spiritual journey?

Lord Jesus, hate is so tempting—and, in the end, so destructive to your purposes for my life. Today (and every day), teach me more about how to love and pray for my enemies. Amen.

GPS Insights

Angie McCarty

Angie McCarty

Angie McCarty is an ordained elder from the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church and moved to Kansas from Arizona in 2017. She is the Pastor of Senior Adult Ministry at Resurrection Leawood and the part-time pastor at Spring Hill United Methodist Church. She is currently enrolled as a doctoral candidate at Saint Paul School of Theology. Angie is married to Jonathan Bell, who also serves on staff at Resurrection. Together they have six kids, a live-in sister who is active in Matthew’s Ministry, and a totally joyful life.

We learn the concept of friends and enemies very early in life. Young children learn about the good guys and the bad guys. Enemies like Ursula, Jafar, and Darth Vadar have us rooting for evil to be overcome. Moving into adolescence brings enemies who look much more real. The mean girls in school, the football players or the bullies segregate teenagers into the haves and have nots. As our adult brain kicks in, we realize that there are enemies that are much bigger than those in our own lives. Adolph Hitler–the world will never be the same after the tragedies at his hands. Leaders of modern-day armed conflicts in far off places like Yemen and the Tigray region of Ethiopia and Mozambique are very real enemies to the people who are harmed by their hands. Let’s not take this too far across the globe, because sometimes the enemy we face exists in our own house in the form of our addiction, our abuser, depression, anxiety, or our own broken hearts.

If someone has hurt me to the core and I consider them my enemy how on earth do I love them? Jesus knows my frailties and liabilities yet still expects this of me? I’m supposed to love them? Honestly, I want to live in the just world that says an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. That’s a world where my enemies receive justice. However, this kind of justice results very quickly in a toothless, sightless world, said Ghandi.

If we take Jesus seriously when he calls us to love our enemy, what does that look like? Let me offer a huge disclaimer: This is really important. When loving your enemy, you are not ever required to put yourself in harm’s way. Loving your abuser does not mean being in relationship with her or him. Jesus is not calling us to risk harm to ourselves or others. Too many manipulators have used “love your enemies” to bring people back into abusive relationships, and this is not what Jesus is teaching.

Loving our enemies might look like: do no harm. If we can’t offer a loving act, then staying away and shutting our mouth might be the most loving act we can offer.

Bless them. When you think of your enemy, offer a blessing. To bless someone means to ask that God’s good intentions be poured onto a person and is an acknowledgement of your enemy’s humanity. God please bless (insert enemy’s name here even if you have to grit your teeth to get the words out). Speak the blessing out loud. Over time this does not change your enemy into a better person. It changes your heart into a follower of Christ.

Finally, pray for your enemy. Call them by name. Ask God to heal the hurts in their lives that motivate their hurtful actions. Ask God to heal the hurts in our lives that leave us so angry. Ask God to show them mercy. Ask God to show us mercy!

I wish Jesus was kidding when he asked this of us. I wish he had offered an out that said, “Love your enemies, unless they [insert whatever my enemy has done to me].” As much as I read Jesus’ words, I simply don’t find any excuse for not loving my neighbor. I will join you today in keeping my mouth shut, offering a blessing and praying for my enemy.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Adam Hamilton, Why? Making Sense of God’s Will. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011, p. 20.