Jesus, enemy-love, and the church

Christians are all too often known more for what they stand against, than what they stand for. As those who claim to follow Jesus, an enemy-loving Lord, why do we so often choose to hate our enemies and fight against them, rather than reflect Jesus, who died for them?

We often choose to fight against our so-called enemies, whether it be the liberal agenda, same-sex marriage, other religions, or a certain morality issue, with the sword of our words. By contrast, Jesus told his followers to put their swords away.

In fact, Jesus chose to give himself away for his enemies, not look for ways to fight them.

The cross, where God’s enemy love was most powerfully displayed, shows us a God who, rather than kill his enemies, chose to die for them instead. As Jesus hung on the cross he asked his Father to forgive the same people responsible for putting him there. With arms out-stretched he welcomed those who hurled insults at him, rather than call for legions of angels to destroy them, which he could have done.

What does this teach us?

- God in Christ has always been for people, never against them.
- God in Christ has always been for his enemies, never against them.

Jesus’s mission statement

Jesus’s own self-proclaimed mission statement was this –

“I have not come to condemn the world, but to save it” (John 3:17).

We sometimes forget verse 17.

It was the Apostle Paul who once wrote,

"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Which when paraphrased simply means –

When we deserved it least, when we were enemies of God and far away from him in every conceivable way, that was when God broke into time and space and took upon himself the fullness of what it means to be a human being, showcased his enemy love to the world through countless acts of self-giving otherness, and died for the same people who hit him, spit on him, and mocked his name.

What does our response as followers of Jesus look like in comparison?

If our typical response is in any way different from his, we need to take a step back and reconsider our response.

The rabbi connection

A Rabbi seeks to replicate himself  in his students. And, their students seek to reflect their rabbi.

Jesus, our Rabbi, was no different. Every day he spent with the twelve disciples was a day in which he tried to demonstrate, in both word and action, what God is like and how those who follow after God should look.

The primary characteristic God demonstrated in and through the person, life and teachings of Jesus is enemy love.

The primary characteristic God demonstrated in and through Jesus is enemy love. Click To Tweet

We see this attribute displayed throughout Jesus's public ministry and identify its most powerful demonstration on the cross, where Jesus died for his enemies.

In our day, we often see our enemies, both near and far, in a completely different light. And, as a result, end up treating them very differently as well.

- We place confrontational Christian bumper stickers on our cars that push people away.

- We placard social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter with slogans that attempt to enforce the Christian faith, as though force has ever worked.

- We have a reputation for telling people how bad they are, how far removed from God they are, and then threaten them with some form of judgement story if they choose not to give in to our demands.

I can’t speak for you, but these demonstrations do not in any way reflect the Jesus of scripture; a Jesus who, rather than seek for ways to push people away, looked for opportunities to invite people in.

Jesus didn’t seek for opportunities to push people away, but invite them in.

Followers follow

Jesus loved his enemies to the point of dying for them. His out-stretched arms, nailed to a Roman cross, demonstrated a posture of invitation, to and for everyone, enemies included.

- He didn’t seek to intimidate people into the Kingdom of God.

- He didn’t use scare tactics to frighten people into the Kingdom of God.

- He didn’t use manipulation and propaganda to force people to bow out of fear and guilt.

Instead…

He healed their sick.
He cast out their demons.
He fed them.
He taught them.
He wept for them.
He included them.
He invited them.
He loved them.
He died for them.
Then told his followers to go and do likewise.

Followers follow. They look like the one they claim to serve. And, we are called to look like Jesus who reflected his Father by loving his enemies to the point of laying down his life for them.

It will never be easy, but always necessary, if we truly desire to follow Jesus to the cross and find not only a place of forgiveness, but also a posture of enemy-love we are called to embrace.

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About the author


Senior Editor and Staff Writer

Jeff is the Senior Editor of ChristianWeek, a public speaker, blogger and an award-winning published writer of articles and book reviews in a variety of faith-based publications. He also blogs at jeffkclarke.com

  • Paul Gillam

    I’ve been considering Matthew 9:13, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Helpful article.