Love your Enemies, pray for those who persecute you

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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus ends this section of his sermon by dropping an atomic bomb on those who aspire to live according to the letter of the law. In a few words he destroys every effort of self-righteousness. Jesus rebukes an age-old practice of hatred towards those who are not Israelites. In another place he regales a Samaritan, one of a people hated by most Israelites. Jesus lays bare and destroys all excuses by telling us to love those who abuse, persecute and mistreat us. It is one of the most amazing teachings in all of literature.

Looking back I am ashamed of the ways that I have rationalized hatred in my life. In a sense hatred is a mental rationalization that dehumanizes people. The Nazis used this sort of rationalization to persecute the Jews. American slavery was the result of people who rationalized that a sect of humanity were not really human. Religious people use this tactic yet today to dehumanize people they consider to be their enemies. Jesus speaks to this rationalized hatred admonishing us to use our hearts instead of our heads - for love is an issue of the heart.. and unconditional love is God's kind of love.

And Jesus once again speaks to us in prophetic hyperbole when he tells us to be perfect, or mature, as God is. In a few words He challenges us to live our lives out with unconditional and sacrificial love. For you cannot love your enemy if you have conditions. This kind of love requires a mind that will sacrificially bow to a loving heart in an unconditional way. This kind of love is in agreement with the spirit of the law.

I repent of conditional love Lord. Fill me up with your kind of love.

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