"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 33: Love Your Enemies

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?Do not even pagans do that?" ~ Matthew 5:43-47

I'm a trial lawyer. On a daily basis, I'm engaged in an aggressive adversarial process. The idea behind the American civil justice system is that when two parties have a dispute that they are not able to resolve, instead of slugging it out or shooting it out, they will hire lawyers who will fight it out in court. Litigation is a civilized proxy for physical combat. Sometimes, however, it's not very civilized. In fact, things can become very hostile and unpleasant. I don't consider every attorney on the opposite side of a case to be my enemy. Despite the reputation of lawyers, many of them are as gracious as possible within the adversarial system. Some lawyers, however, have earned their bad reputation. And, if you're a trial lawyer, you can never forget that even the nicest lawyer on the other side is still on the other side, and his job is to defeat you.

What does it mean for us Christians to love those who oppose us? In this passage, Jesus shows us a couple of practical things that we should do. In verse 47, Jesus indicates that we ought to greet them. In other words, we don't have permission to snub or ignore those who oppose us. In verse 45, Jesus says that God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the unrighteous and the righteous. In other words, God meets the physical needs of those who follow Him and those who oppose Him. If we are sons of God, then we should have the same character. So, as far as we are able, we should meet the needs of those who oppose us. In verse 44, Jesus says we ought to pray for our enemies. How should we pray for them? By following the model that Jeus gives just a few verses after commanding his disciples to pray for their enemies. We should pray for God's kingdom and will to come to the lives of those who oppose us. We should pray that God would lead them to repentance. We should pray that God would meet their needs and show us how we might help them. Finally, we should pray that God would forgive them for their sins, help us to forgive them, and forgive us for our unforgiveness.

I've always tried to be kind and courteous to opposing attorneys. For me, this passage places spiritual significance on those relationships. We ought to be kind to others, not based on a hope that cosmic karma will return that kindness to us, but out of obedience to our Lord and based on trust in Him.

This passage has also been a call to pray for my adversaries, which I've never done before this last week. As I've tried to pray for those who oppose me, the prayers have sometimes been difficult to speak. When someone has been unkind, rude or dishonest to me, it's difficult for me to wish them well. My natural tendency is to want to see them punished. I want justice, darn it!

From where does the power to sincerely bless our enemies come? I believe it comes from faith in God's justice. Several times this week, God has reminded me that He is just and that justice belongs to Him. For those of us who follow Jesus, God's justice for our sins was satisfied on the cross. As for those who reject Jesus, there will be justice for their sins also.

1 comment:

  1. Life is a journey which allows us to meet all kinds of people. I guess you have to deal with everyone as if they were messingers from God Himself. It gets tough especially in the work place where it seems the worst comes out. Love your enemy is difficult, heck I am pretty sure I am not very good at loving my family and friends the way God would have me do it much less my enemies and those who would rise up against me.