September 22, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 6:27-28 (NRSV)
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
Jesus says we’re to love our enemies. It can be hard enough to love people who bug us, who do or say things we dislike, whose politics or lifestyle offends us. Loving true enemies seems, well, impossible. Yet Jesus calls us to this kind of impossibility. Lord, help me to do the impossible, by your grace and strength.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Jesus said we’re to love our enemies, to do good to them, to bless them, to pray for them. I take Jesus at his word. But I have a simple question: How? How in the world can we actually love our enemies?
Loving our enemies must be one of the hardest things Jesus asks us to do. This is true even if we don’t have actual life-or-death enemies, opponents who oppress us, abuse us, and would even kill us if they had the chance.
I was reminded of how hard it is to love real enemies early in my pastoral ministry. I was leading a Bible study at a community college in Los Angeles. My group was about as diverse as any I ever led: ethnically, religiously, and experientially. One afternoon, I was examining Jesus’s command to love our enemies. When I suggested that God always helps us to love those who hurt us, a man named Ricardo interjected, “Yes, but sometimes it’s very hard to love your enemies.”
I agreed, but once again implied that such love could come easily with God’s help. I gave an example of loving someone who had been rude to me in a store. But Ricardo kept insisting that it was hard to love, even with God’s help. Finally I asked, “Ricardo, do you have a hard time loving your enemies?”
“Yes,” he admitted, “a very hard time.” Then he told a gripping story. When he was a teenager in a Central American country, Ricardo was part of a leadership team of a Christian movement. He and his friends worked hard to share the good news of Jesus with their friends and families. They had no political agenda. But that’s not how the government saw their activity. Fearing that Bible-believing followers of Jesus would become politically uncooperative, local government officials ordered Ricardo and his friends to cease their evangelistic efforts. They refused, sensing that God had called them to share Christ with their neighbors.
One evening, while they were holding a prayer meeting, government police stormed the meeting hall. They grabbed the leaders, took them outside, and shot them. Somehow, Ricardo managed to escape. He ran home, gathered his few possessions, and began the long trek that ultimately brought him to California.
“It’s still very hard for me to forgive those people who killed my friends,” Ricardo concluded, “I can’t really say that I love them.”
I sat in stunned silence. I realized how superficial my understanding and application had been. Now, what I had said in the Bible study was true. Jesus does call us to love our enemies and God will help us do this. But, after listening to Ricardo, I realized in a new way just how hard it can be to love sometimes, and how much we all need God’s help if we are to love like Jesus.
I have never had enemies like those who killed Ricardo’s friends. But, as I examine my life, I know that there have been people who have felt to me like enemies. And I know that are others for whom my feelings approach hatred. Then there are folks who just plain bother me. Even these I find hard to love. I’d much rather simply avoid them.
So, how can I love my enemies? How can I love the people I wish were not part of my life? How can I do what Jesus requires, really? In next Monday’s devotion I’ll suggest one answer to this question. For today, let me encourage you to reflect on how you can actually love your enemies.
Can you remember a time in your life when you loved someone who was like an enemy to you? If so, what happened? What enabled you to love in this way?
Have you ever observed someone loving an enemy? What do you think enabled that person to love in such an unexpected way?
As you think about loving the people in your life whom you dislike – not full-on enemies, but people you really don’t appreciate – what would help you to love them?
Take some time to pray about your capacity to love, including love for your enemies. Ask the Lord to show you how you can love those who treat you poorly or who speak poorly of you. See if you can discern how to love those people.
Lord Jesus, I find it hard to love people whom I dislike, those who treat me poorly, or even those with whom I disagree about politics. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to love real enemies, those who hate me and hurt me and my loved ones.
Teach me, Lord, how to love as you love. Form my heart to do what I could never do on my own. Help me to be someone who loves truly, who loves both neighbor and enemy. To you be all the glory. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Love Your Enemies
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.