You have heard it said, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… That’s a hard teaching. I’ve had more than a few conversations with struggling married couples over the years where one or the other spouse tells me they aren’t feeling love anymore. I use this text to demonstrate love isn’t a feeling.
We’ve come to think of love as something we’re passive to—it comes upon us. We fall in love—sort of like falling in a ditch. Just happened. We talk about feeling butterflies in our stomach. That’s not love. That’s gas! It’ll pass—pun intended. But Jesus makes it clear, love is an action. You don’t get warm-fuzzies where an enemy is concerned. It has to be a decision.
The rest of the statement that Jesus gave tells us of the importance of this matter: …that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. People who knew my father tell me that they see and hear a lot of him in me. I suppose I did pick up a few of his features. I know that I picked up a bit of his temperament and some of his humor and vocabulary. Every now and again a phrase will come out of my mouth directed at my kids—a “Because I said so!”—and it is like déjà vu, I remember my dad saying that. Jesus’ point is that when we take up this manner of love, it is a dead give-away as to who our Father is. It so resembles Him that others will recognize it. God loves His enemies and cares for them. He causes His light to shine and rains provision on them. This manner of love is so very different from the norm. It stands apart.