Eric Gargus, Student Pastor
Northside Baptist Church, Columbus
When Islamic extremist group Boko Haram attacked a village in Nigeria, many of the women were kidnapped, imprisoned, and raped repeatedly by their captors. The women who renounced their faith in Jesus wed their captors and became lifelong slaves. Those who stood firm in their faith in Christ continued facing a relentless barrage of violence that included being raped daily by many different men. One kidnapped teen named Esther endured these horrors for over a year before being rescued and returned to her village — along with her baby daughter, Rebecca.
Upon being returned to her village by her rescuers, Esther and her daughter faced a community now not willing to accept her and her daughter. Yet through it all, Esther reflected God’s love. Not once has Esther renounced her faith in Christ through the violence of her imprisonment to her return to a village which now treated her as an outcast. Esther chose to lovingly forgive — even the man who impregnated her by way of rape!
Jesus knew that everyone would have enemies. He experienced the cruelty of this world firsthand. Amid sub-human treatment on every level, Jesus responded with a love like nothing the world had ever seen. He chose to look past the flaws of His enemies and forgive them. His radical love was displayed by giving His life for even those who mocked and hurt Him.
Luke documents Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in the third Gospel, which bears his namesake. During Jesus’ compelling message, He provides practical wisdom on how His followers must respond to enemies in order to honor God. This practical truth is perhaps the most challenging to truly put into action in a person’s life in the entirety of the Holy Scriptures. But as history has revealed, Jesus experienced a multitude of opportunities to love enemies who came at Him from both inside and outside the church.
Luke 6: 27-28. “Love your enemy” is an easily comprehendible command, but a difficult one to make actionable. To “bless” one’s enemies seems absurd when it is much easier to lash out in retaliation. Kingdom-level thinking challenges us to grasp this love for enemies not as a surface “like” of anything about them, but rather a love that causes us to desire that an enemy’s soul not spend an eternity in the damnation of hell. And, it is about trusting that vengeance truly does belong to God (Rom. 12: 19), who will cause all to give account for sins that affect self and affect others. One’s heart must be softened to the embrace of loving and blessing enemies by effectually praying for them.
Luke 6: 29-31. Culturally, a slap on the cheek was considered a deep insult during the time when Jesus first uttered these words, and even punishable by a heavy fine! Taking someone’s outer cloak was also illegal. So, Jesus is not commanding His followers to bow before evil, but rather to resist it lovingly — to not repay evil with evil (I Pet. 3: 9). This is summarized in the easy to remember yet often painstaking to apply “Golden Rule” found in verse 31.
Luke 6: 32-36. We all know people who are easy to love — and people who are hard to love. Truly reflecting the love of Christ to the world means making the effort to love, bless, and pray for those who hurt us. This is the highest form of love, one that caused the young Nigerian woman Esther to return to her village with her child and, even in the face of rejection, radiate God’s love. Others are now finding hope in Jesus through Esther’s example of loving those who seek to harm her actions and insults. Sons and daughters of the Most High seek to love even their enemies.
With many avenues to approach in applying the command to “Love your enemies,” one could use the spotlight today — the internet. Students and adults are more connected than at any other time in history. Social media is a powerful platform for both good and evil. Anger can be triggered by a few words from someone with a different opinion. Insults can be anonymously and not-so-anonymously hurled. Hate erupts and feelings are deeply hurt. It does not have to be that way. Rest assured, God will have His vengeance.
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