Loving your enemies

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: Love is a verb. It’s not a squishy feeling in the stomach you get when you see that special person. It’s not something you feel, period. It’s something you do.

True love is unconditional. There is no such thing as “I’ll love you if…” Likewise, there’s no such thing as “If you loved me, you would…”

Those are conditions. Love merely says, “I love you. I want what’s best for you.” When we place conditions on love, it’s no longer love. It becomes a transaction, no different from exchanging money or bartering goods and services.

Unconditional love is hard.

In fact, when we’ve been hurt, it seems impossible. Every human being is made in the image of God, even the ones who we consider despicable and deplorable. God loves the murderer, the abuser, the drug dealer, the rapist, and the drunk driver, just as He loves you.

We’re called to love people as God does. So how then are we supposed to love those people? Well, the good news is loving people is not a skill we’re expected to master overnight. But as we get closer to God and more intimately familiar with how He works, we’ll be able to let his spirit take over. And the more God’s spirit lives in us, the less concerned we’ll be with how we’ve been hurt. We’ll start to see all people — even the “bad” ones — as His children, who were born into a fallen, sinful nature, just like we were.

Jesus’ command to love your enemies sounds simple when the word “enemy” is just some ambiguous concept. Sure, I can love them… No big deal. But when we’re the recipients of true injustice, injury, or hatred, do we have the same attitude?

His command to “do good to those who hate you” from Luke 6:27 is such an odd concept, and it was probably just as weird to hear back in 30 A.D. when He said it out loud. But what do you think will happen if you show love to someone who hates you? You may find that you start to run out of enemies.

Sure, there will always be those who take advantage of your kindness, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping yourself from being abused. But sometimes all it takes to love someone is to not retaliate when we’re shown hatred. We humans aren’t conditioned for that, are we? We feel like we need to have the last word or that drop-the-mic parting shot that will devastate the opponent. But what would happen if we just showed love?

It takes discipline. But practice makes better, as my wife always says. The more we keep in mind the sin we were saved from, the better prepared we’ll be to extend grace to others. Even our enemies.

It’s a process

Finally, there’s nothing I can say to take away the feeling of vengeance you may have toward someone. You may want the person who hurt you to rot in hell. And I totally get it. I wouldn’t tell you to be dishonest about your feelings. The desire for revenge can be a very real human craving when we’ve been seriously hurt.

But when we allow God to take over our desires, He begins the process of conforming those desires to look more like His. Notice I said “process.” Once you’ve decided to follow Him, he starts to change you from the inside out, and it’s not usually an overnight thing. Growing closer to God is a process.