In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
In the political landscape of the United States, among the so-called Christian politicians and citizenry of all stripes and denominations, those who are supposed to hold the words of Jesus in the highest esteem and follow them, these words are not being demonstrated. We are now in the midst of tumultuous and contentious times where most everyone justifies selective unforgiveness, particularized hate and laser-focused malice towards those they believe “deserve it.” A poison of hatred is now coursing through the arteries of the nation and is slowly killing our collective spirit. It has been present in our system for some time. We have fooled ourselves into believing we’re still obeying Jesus by repeating his words, even as we rip into one another with unprecedented ferocity even to the point of justifying behavior we would “normally” call out as hateful or barbaric.
Jesus did not want to be misunderstood, so he clarifies that we are not just to love those familiar to us and in agreement with us, but also and especially those we are inclined to hate and those we consider our enemies. If we are to love declared enemies, how much more those who are compatriots with whom we strongly disagree? For those who claim to follow Jesus, it’s time we stop imitating everyone else, and begin to imitate the One Whom we represent and Who has sent us to be salt and light in this world. Our responses to those who vehemently oppose us on any issue must fall in line with the instructions of the Lord: Love them. Pray for them. Greet them. Do good to them – striving for perfection in doing so. If they don’t reciprocate – it matters not. Our actions are not dictated by the actions or reactions of others.
In these times, I am reminded of the 2nd General order of the United States Army which says, “I will obey my special orders and perform all of my duties in a military manner.” When I am tempted to act like everybody else around me or in front of me on the screen, I remember this order and apply it to my service with my true Commander Above. I must choose, time and time again, to obey my special orders – the instructions Jesus has presented to me with no conditions or caveats – and to perform my duty, always, in a manner that is pleasing to Him! I am on a mission from God. I must embrace that mission with more intensity than my enemies embrace theirs and continue on mission with more tenacity than my fiercest foe. That means loving them, seeking to do good towards them, and blessing them even as they seek to harm me.
This is not an easy mission. If it were, everyone would be doing it successfully. I am recommitting myself to the ways of my Lord in dealing with the evils of our day. I must choose the discipline of love and forgiveness, expressed in words and actions. I will seek to tell the truth, seasoned with love and I will strive to exercise self-control in engaging any opposition, even when I get hurt. Jesus is not offering another plan. If I find myself acting like my enemy, chances are I’ve deserted my post, and joined a different Army.