The bit in Luke 6 about loving your enemies has been sitting with me for a couple of days, which likely means Jesus has a word for me. I’m struck by the assumption in that passage that we’ll have enemies. I want to tell Jesus that I don’t think I do. I need him to believe that I love people, that “enemy” seems a bit strong, that I’m not that kind of person.
I love people, Jesus.
But then Jesus tells me to go back and read the instructions again. When he tells me to “love your enemies,” he isn’t talking about people I don’t like. He’s talking about people who don’t like ME.
Well then … shouldn’t you be talking to them, Jesus? Aren’t they the ones with the issue? Shouldn’t you be giving them the what-for?
And Jesus says nope. They aren’t the ones this is about. This is about you, Jesus says. “Love your enemies,” Jesus tells me, because my enemies are my ticket to understanding the Kingdom of God. Pay attention to them and watch how they work on you.
Jesus wants me to pay attention to the people who don’t like me, who would rather cancel me, who don’t trust me, who don’t want me around. Bless them. Jesus tells me to bless the ones who curse me. Pray for the ones who mistreat me. Be patient with the slappers. Be generous with the takers.
All of it, Jesus says, is an exercise in sanctification. “If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you?” There is no stretch in loving people who love you back.
Nope, Jesus says. Love the people who don’t love you back. In fact, actively do good to them and even give them things with no strings attached (“no strings attached” is the secret sauce, in fact). Just give, and then keep giving. Then give some more.
And what will that get you? Well, probably it will wear you out, at least at first. And it will undoubtedly look like foolishness on top of stupidity to people who already have no respect for you. You’ll have to hang in there for a while with nothing but frustration for a return.
But then one day, Jesus says, the payoff will show up. And the payoff is mercy. Not mercy received, but mercy encountered … understood. You’ll know mercy. Which is to say that you’ll have the exquisite experience of encountering on earth the essence of what you’ll feel in that moment when you first stand face to face with Jesus in heaven.