Jesus said What?

Matthew 5: 43 – 44

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

There are a couple of passages in the New Testament that I just don’t like. This is one of them. Jesus came along and raised the standard. We can’t even hate our enemies. Moreover, I’ve got to pray for those who persecute me. Does that even sound reasonable?

As I wrote last week, the love standard Jesus has raised for us requires a life lived integrated with him. I can’t love my enemies in my own strength and there has been more than one time I have argued with Jesus about having to pray for the people who have persecuted me. It just seems wrong at a very basic level. But that is just the thing, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t want us to live a base existence. He wants me to follow in his footsteps. He wants us living the high life and that is more than just receiving the good things of life. There is a giving component as well, another side of the coin, if you will.

God, Son and Spirit want all good things for us, true, but they want us to live according to their lifestyle of love. Let me ask you this, though? Why do they call us to live according to the love standard? Why did Jesus instruct us to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us? Is that requirement fair to us? If God wants only good things for us, could it be that this mandate is meant to increase goodness in our lives as well?

When we have been hurt, it is natural to want to either strike back or throw up shields. We aren’t natural beings though. We have been given the supernatural life. That is life beyond the natural and that is a critically important aspect of the Christian life. To live “naturally” is to live a worldly existence, and that is not our calling.

It cannot be said enough. You may able but, I cannot live the life to which we are all called without the imminent presence of the Lord walking hand in hand with me. In fact, it is a much closer integration than hand in hand. That is a far to external an analogy. He has got to intertwine his spirit with mine such that our spiritual DNA (and perhaps even physical DNA) are woven in and around each other. I need him to respond rather than me react so his spirit has to be present and alert.

Through the trinity, we can live this love walk. We can pray for those who use and abuse us because God’s grace supplants our self-oriented perspective. We can pray for people from His vantage point rather than ours. Jesus calls us to a certain kind of existence, one above and beyond the natural ways of humans. While it may be impossible to live the life he requires of us by the use of our own strength, he has empowered us with his own strength and gentleness of spirit. Of course, this intermeshing of our spirit with his comes by spending time with him in meditative contemplation, conversation and study of his word.

May the blessing of the Lord be yours today and may pondering this passage bring you peace rather than angst.