Enemies. They are people we all have. Maybe it’s not plain to see, black and white, like in the movies. Maybe our lives aren’t Snow White vs. the Wicked Queen, Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader, Aslan vs. The White Witch, angels vs. demons. Regardless, we have enemies even if we don’t title them as such. The world is full of people that would harm the Church and you if given the opportunity.
And what do you feel toward these people? When someone gossips poorly of you and you find out, is it your first thought to go and praise them in your community? No. When someone makes you feel bad about yourself, is it your first inclination to turn around and build them up? No. When you see abusers on the news, is it your first thought to pray for their well-being? When you hear of a murderer caught, do you pray God watches over them in love? Of course not! These scenarios sound ludicrous! We want to gossip about the gossiper! We want to lie about the liar and put down the person who puts us down! We want to watch the abuser be abused and see the murderer suffer. It’s not in our sinful nature flesh to seek the well-being of our enemies.
It is impossible for us in our sinful nature to love our enemies. And yet, what does Christ tell us to do? LOVE YOUR ENEMIES! He doesn’t say, as best you can love your enemies. If it’s convenient love your enemies. If they’re being nice love your enemies. He says LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. This is a command.
Our sinful nature makes it impossible for us to love our enemies or suffer at their hands lovingly. We cannot do the things Christ asks us to do. We cannot respond to hatred with love. Violence with peace. Slander with encouragement. Greed with generosity. It is our nature to respond to sin and hate with sin and hate. By our sinful flesh and weak nature, we are doomed to fail at keeping Christ’s commandment, for by our sin, it is impossible. We don’t even love our great God as we ought.
Yet, God is not like us. Where we treated Him with disobedience and hate, He remained faithful and loving to us. He sent Jesus Christ to live the life of true God and true man. And as a man, Jesus Christ lived on this earth and He had enemies. He had enemies that slandered Him and spread lies. He had enemies that cursed Him and abused Him. He had enemies that struck Him and stole from Him. He had enemies that spat on Him, flogged Him, mocked Him, and nailed Him to a cross. Yet, in all of that, He loved them. Never did Christ smack them back. He never mocked them or spread lies about them. He didn’t curse them or spit on them. He didn’t abused them or nail them to crosses. Instead He prayed for them, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they’re doing.” He loved them! After all, dying for their sins was the entire purpose of His incarnation.
And we can’t shake our heads at them. We are right in the crowd of people that put Christ on the cross. Maybe our physical hands didn’t help and our eyes didn’t see. But our sin put Him there and our heart demanded He die. We abuse Christ in every sin we commit. We slander Him by our words and thoughts. We insult Him and deny Him by our deeds. Our sinful flesh is an enemy of God.
Yet, Christ died for you and me. Christ accomplished the impossible! He loved His enemies so much that He died for us and rose again. He changed us from being God’s enemies to being His children whom He loves and by the Spirit in us, we love in return! And that love overflows into the world. We can’t help but love those around us, for we are God’s and God is in us and God is love!
Christ’s death appeased God’s wrath and rescued us from His condemnation. Our old Adam has been killed in Christ and a new man has been brought to life in Him. This new man, the man that lives by faith in Christ, is all that God commanded. Long-suffering. Patient. Self-sacrificing. Generous. Slow to anger. Loving. Christ has accomplished the impossible in and for us, and we are made capable to love. We love one another in genuine and self-sacrificing love. That is the Church. The Church IS the impossible. This is not what we have done in ourselves, but what God has done in us. And thanks to Christ, God is loving toward us. His wrath has been satiated and He looks on His children with love and mercy. He never grows angry with us, never retaliates against us, and never punishes us. For Christ has already taken all of that. Instead, we live with a God that gives us nothing but His blessings. So strong is His love for us that He has promised to take us in love to be with Him forever. Praise God!
Rev. Logan Landes is assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.