One of the many challenging declarations Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount comes from Matthew 5:43-48. It’s the passage where He tells His disciples & the crowds, “You’ve heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor & hate your enemy. But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies, & pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven.”
Love your enemies? Pray for people who persecute you? How?
Something that has helped me to understand & try to live this out was discovering the Greek word for love that Jesus used in this passage was “agape” – roughly translated, it would be “to welcome, to love dearly, & unconditionally.” Doesn’t necessarily make it easier to DO, but it sure gives a picture of what it looks like: extending love & care to all people, without strings.
When we do this, we exhibit a primary Christ-like trait that comes from being in the family of God. Loving like this reflects God’s own love, & points to Him as our own source of love & life.
Plus, like Jesus said, if we only love our friends, people that love us &/or those that are lovable, how Godly is that? Even people who don’t know God & don’t have a clue about His ways do that. (Matthew 5:46,47).
This command wasn’t just talk for Jesus either – He lived it out His whole life, culminating on the cross when He looked at the crowds around Him, yelling, cursing, & spitting at Him. Calling Him names. Blaspheming His Father. And Jesus’ response to this hatred & persecution, as He hung dying on the cross? A prayer: “Father forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
That is loving your enemies, Jesus-style.