In grace is the difference between Christianity and the world evident. It is not easy to love our enemies. This passage is one of the most challenging in Scripture. It often requires divine intervention. We Christians should have confidence that when God gives us a command, he also gives us the power to obey.
1. Who are our enemies?
"But I tell you who hear me, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back." vs. 27-30
Our enemies are people who hate us, who curse us, who abuse us. These are the people we are called to love, people who act against our interests. The world looks at offenses far more differently than Jesus Christ. They seek revenge. But for Christians, there is no place for revenge. The ancient philosopher, Confucius, said "A man seeking revenge digs two graves," one for his opponent and one for himself. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:22:
"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment...Anyone who says 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
Jesus equates anger to the sin of murder. Jesus gave us the story of the good samaritan, who was a neighbor of the man who was beaten on the street, his enemy, a Jew. So, a neighbor is anyone close at hand, even an enemy. Jesus calls us to love them, and act as a friend.
2. How are we supposed to love our enemies?
Does turning the other cheek mean we are supposed to take a beating from someone? God knew it would be difficult for us, so He gave us an extreme example of how to love our enemies? Jesus died on the cross for us. Consider who you were before you met Jesus? Know for a fact that God is actively pursuing your soul. God longs to forgive us. When God planned the cross for Christ, He knew who we were going to be and He decided there to love His enemies - you and me - those who don't deserve His love. We are saved today because God is good, not because we are.
We have to die to self. To love our neighbors as ourselves, we must make their needs equal to our own. We have to look for ways to show them the Light. Know that people are watching you, especially when you claim to represent Jesus. Most non-Christians have a very alert sense of hypocrisy in people. Earthly suffering is meant to bring Him glory. When pain moves hearts to Him, the end result is always His glory. God forbade sin; it's bad for us. Sin hurts because it is contrary to the will of God. On Judgment Day God will bring eternal judgment to those who have rejected Him, and eternal peace, joy and celebration to those who have believed in Him.
Primarily, the way to love our enemies is to share Jesus with them. The Christian walk is one of following the Holy Spirit. God will lead us in loving our enemies. We can often misunderstand God's will, and that is where fellowship comes in to hold each other accountable, to help us know how best to love people in the name of Jesus. Verse 31 says,
"Do to others as you would have them do to you."
3. Why must we love our enemies?
Something funny happens when we obey God's Word. We come to realized the benefits of living a Godly life. All obedience is met with abundant fruit. As we love our enemies, we learn that more and more, people want to be our friends. They are broken people, just like us. When we love our enemies, we lose that bitterness that cripples us and robs us of our joy. The only thing that stays is a sense of righteous self-indignation. We must forgive. That is not optional. Jesus says that our salvation is dependent on it.
Love consists of more than just forgiveness. God wants more. When we share the Gospel with our enemies, we are wishing them good. This is the grace that separates us from the world. Christ desires all to be saved, and we must also desire this. Our value comes from the God who made us. Our worth is rooted in His worth. Today, we are called to love those who are unlovable. "Love your neighbor as yourself" holds even when your neighbor is against you.
There are many benefits to obedience. Yet, serving God specifically for those benefits does not last. In the end, we should love our enemies because God loves His enemies. Every sin that is not immediately punished by God with eternal death is an act of love from the Almighty. Every grace given to the wicked - the sunrise, the taste of food, the embrace of a spouse - is God loving His enemies. He created all of this because His love overflows. It is His nature to share what He has. We fulfill no need in God, but He fulfills every need in us. There is so much we have to surrender to God in order to be His children, yet in the end, not a single thing we give up is worth holding on to (earthly things, resentment, bitterness). We have to give those things to God and leave them in His hands. I guarantee you, His plan is better than ours. Like all of God's commands, the command to love our enemies truly benefits us.