November 14, 2008 by Stephen
I was talking on the phone today with my friend Josh. He was on his way to lead a youth retreat for one of my friends from seminary. While we were talking, Josh mentioned what his sessions were going to cover. They were going to be from the Sermon on the Mount and the last one was going to be about loving your enemies. I recently wrote a devotion for our church‘s Advent Devotional book based on that passage from Matthew. Here it is:
December 23, 2008
“You have heard that it was said…” Those words of Jesus are found throughout the fifth chapter of the book of Matthew, the first chapter of what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. With those words Jesus takes long-standing notions of belief and draws our attention to the deeper meanings found within, meanings that completely shake us to our core. He draws us to reflect on the deeper meanings of hatred, lust, relationships, our word, and our love. He calls us to perform a check-up on our heart. He makes us move away from the easy toward the difficult. Such is the case with these verses. Our long-standing notion of belief is to love our neighbor and hate our enemy. It is easy to love those who we like, but it is even easier to hate those we consider our enemy. But Jesus draws out and illuminates for us the truth that we are to love our enemies and we are to pray for them, specifically those who persecute us.
These are tough words to hear-love your enemies-but, if we look at how Eugene Peterson translates these verses in The Message we might find some help in not only hearing them, but making them a part of our lives. Peterson puts it this way, “I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.” Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. What would our world look like if we lived our day-to-day lives by those words?
What would it look like if we…
• were patient instead of short with people?
• gave more instead of took more?
• prayed for our enemies instead of cursed them?
• praised others instead of criticized them?
• built up relationships instead of destroyed them?
• respected each another instead of humiliated each other?
• helped others instead of hindered them?
• brought healing instead of pain?
• instead of ?
Think about your enemies. What will “bringing out the best in you, not the worst” look like for you? If you’re anything like me, it will look different than the way things look now, and I think that is the point Jesus is trying to make.
PRAYER: God of love, may we come to love our enemies this season and always, letting them bring out the best in us, not the worst. In the name of Jesus, who demonstrated this love for us, Amen.