Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What does it mean to 'bless our enemies' and to 'love our enemies'?

Jesus said we should love our enemies, bless our enemies, and pray for those that persecute us. What does it mean?
In our modern culture, to love someone is to have warm gushing feelings, a yearning desire to be in their presence, and above all, to want the best for them.

A few weeks ago while driving to work, I turned on the radio and heard a preacher (Ray Pritchard) say that we should pray for our enemies the same way we would pray for our loved ones and our family. I have heard similar themes before, repeated many times by preachers.

Frankly, this is misinterpreting scripture. Why?

A real enemy of Christians is North Korea. Christians are imprisoned in labor camps even today. There are stories of horrific abuse of prisoners in labor camps. (if you google for keywords: BBC UN human rights violations North Korea you can find some very disturbing news reports).

Should Christians pray for Kim Yong Un to "be blessed, to overcome obstacles in his work, to be protected from harm and attacks by the devil, to have God's favor resting on him, to be prosperous, healthy and live long"? In other words, we would be praying for the triumph of evil and the continued persecution of the followers of Christ. These are perverted prayers.

Should American Christians pray for Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran to "be blessed, may God establish the work of your hands (to successfully build a nuclear bomb), may no weapon formed against you prosper (may Israel and America's attempts to thwart you fail)"?

I believe that you should always bless your enemies with salvation and repentance.

How come Jesus never blessed his enemies while he was alive? (I do agree he never harbored bitterness against them even though he was very angry with them).

When I read the gospels, I see Jesus angry at his enemies.
He called them, "blind pharisees", "white-washed tombs", "blind leading the blind", "hypocrites", "your father is the devil".

One time, he made a whip and violently drove those out, who were corrupting the temple with their business dealings.

Of Judas who betrayed him, Jesus said, "one of you [Judas] is a devil".

I do not see any mushy gushy love.

Nor did Jesus ever pray for their long life, health, wealth, success in all they did, and protection from harm.

Yet when he was dying on the cross, he had no bitterness nor hatred towards his enemies.

"Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing..."

So what does it mean to love our enemies and to bless them if Jesus himself did not demonstrate the traditional feelings of love towards his enemies?

"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..." (Matthew 5:44)

He was in fact, echoing the theme from the Old Testament book of Proverbs, the passage,
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
    if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:44)

An important clue is seen in the parable of the Good Samaritan which Jesus told to demonstrate what it meant to love one's neighbor, AND love one's enemies.

The Good Samaritan was an outcast, a mixed race person, considered illegitimate, and a lesser human being by the Jews. But more than anything, they were the enemies of the Jews (read this article by historian Amy Levine
Since the man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho, he was likely a Jew. The Good Samaritan showed love to his enemy and blessed him, by binding his wounds and taking him to the inn where he could recover, and paying for his stay.

In other words, Love is practical action, not gushy feelings, nor ridiculous prayers.

If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it. (Exodus 23:4-5)

Jesus healed one of his enemy a few hours before he would himself be murdered by them.

And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, "Stop! No more of this." And He touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:51)

In the end, Jesus blessed his enemies with salvation by dying for them. Even so, God does not forgive his enemies unless they repent. If they do not repent, He casts them into Hell.

Again, I do not see mushy love, but a willingness to set aside bitterness and hatred and help an enemy in need.

Conclusion: If your enemy is sick or mortally wounded, help him - this is practical love for your enemy. Pray for your enemy by blessing him with repentance and salvation - so he will stop doing evil and the power to do evil will be taken from him.