The last several months I’ve been going through The Forgotten Way study with a small group of ladies. There is one verse, well, two actually, that author Ted Dekker keeps coming back to and they punch me in the gut every time.
I’ve read the Book of Luke several times, so I know I’ve read these verses before, yet I don’t remember ever reading them. I love that God works like that! His Word is living and active and no matter how many times we read it, there is always something for us to learn. The Bible is one book we can read over and over again and never tire of. It’s always fresh and full of life and truth!
So, these verses. They’re hard ones. Ones we don’t really talk about. Ones we either skim over or rationalize away. We think that God can’t possibly mean those words. There’s no way He would expect us to obey them. I know, it must be the translation! The original Greek must have put it a different way, a less convicting way.
Um... not so much. I just studied these verses and they’re even more powerful and challenging in the original language. Ugh! How, God? How can we obey such hard commands?
These are the words of God...
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. ~Luke 6:35-37, NASB
Friends, that is NOT what God meant by love one another. So, what did He mean? I suggest you read the whole chapter to get a feeling for context, but let’s take a closer look at what some of the words in these verses mean.
We’re supposed to love our enemies. Okay, so what kind of love? We’ve heard of agápē, a noun and the type of sacrificial love we are to have for others. The word used for love here is similar. Agapaō, the word used here, is a verb. It’s an action word. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words helps us understand this type of love a little better:
Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, ... and works no ill to any; ... love seeks opportunity to do good to “all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.”[i]
We’re not talking about frenemies here - you know, those people who we’re kind of friends with, but who are also kind of mean to us. We’re talking real enemies here. Hostile, hateful, and hated people. People who do terrible things. People we think God can’t possible save because they are too evil. People we believe are beyond hope because of their wickedness.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I want to say right now that this does not mean you should stay in a violent or unhealthy situation if you find yourself in one. Abuse - physical, emotional, or any other kind - is NEVER okay. Tell someone, remove yourself from the situation, and ask for help.
How can we possibly love our enemies? Honestly, we can’t. Not in our own strength. But when we live our lives united with Christ, His love flows through us. We can choose to love the unlovable because of the love that we ourselves receive from God when we’re unlovable.
I think that’s enough to digest for this week. In my next devotion we’ll dig a little deeper into what the rest of these verses mean.
Spend some time today thinking about how deeply God loves you. How does He show you His love? How does that love change how you love others?
“Long ago the Lord said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.’” ~Jeremiah 31:3, NLT