Romans 12:14; 17-21. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Before taking a break from Romans for Holy Week we completed a 13 part look at “How to Love” from Romans 12. All 13 of those blogs dealt with how to love our brothers and sisters in Christ with “genuine love” (12:9). The things Paul says in Romans 12 about love are convicting, challenging, and sometimes seemingly impossible. And we haven’t even gotten to the hardest part yet – love of our enemies.
Love of enemy is the highest level of love. In fact, it doesn’t even exist in the Old Testament Law. By Jesus’ day rabbis were teaching that the law actually said that you could hate your enemies.
Matthew 5:43. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
This is of course not true. The law did not allow for hate. But to be fair, it didn’t tell me to love my enemy either. But Jesus did. He flipped the law on its head with these words:
Luke 6:27-28; 32-36. “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 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 is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
The command to love and pray for your enemies was unheard of. Think about what Jesus is saying. It’s not just a command to avoid trouble, or stay neutral, or even to just not retaliate. It’s not peaceful co-existence, or non-violent protesting. It’s actively doing good to an enemy. It’s preemptively doing for others what you want done to you. It’s being kind to the ungrateful and evil. It’s genuine agape love. The same love that drove Jesus to the cross for his enemies – you and me.
Surely this kind of love is impossible. I can’t even love my friends and family well. Most days I’m happy to just avoid conflicts. But in Jesus’ mind this is not impossible. It’s son-ship – you will be sons of the Most High.
They make it look so easy.
And Paul has the same theology. Nothing he is saying to us in Romans 12 is actually impossible for us. Why? Because we are sons.
Romans 8:14-15. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
But how does my son-ship allow me to love my enemies?
You are a son by God’s grace alone, the same grace your enemy needs. You were once the enemy of God, but he saved you by his mercy. And God can save them by that same mercy. Do you believe this? Do you want this?
Because you are a son of God, you will inherit the universe. Your enemy can’t actually take anything from you. Anything good that you lose will be restored by your Dad. Anything good that you miss out on will be given to you by your Dad.
Because you are an adopted adult son, you have access to the Father at any time. God’s presence is the continual blessing of all who are IN CHRIST. No enemy can block you from the presence of God. You can have God’s joy and peace even when surrounded by enemies.
Because you are a son of the Most High, you are deeply loved and respected. Everything your heart longs for is found in Christ. Love. Acceptance. Respect. Power. Comfort. Security. Honor. No enemy can take these from you, for they are in your heart.
Because you are God’s adult son, you have a purpose beyond the things of this life that an enemy might threaten. Your career, status, romance, reputation, these are not your mission. In fact, your enemy IS your mission, for she is God’s mission.
Because you are a son of God, you can trust God with every part of your life, even the things that an enemy might try to destroy. God is using all things to conform you into the image of Christ the Son. Even persecution. Especially persecution.
Because we are sons of God we have been loved genuinely. Because we are sons of God we can love genuinely. And the most genuine love in the world is to love an enemy. “To live is Christ” gives you everything your heart needs to love. Even those who will never love you back. Even those who persecute you. Even an enemy. Do you believe this?