If you have spent much time in church you have probably been a part of a discussion about what could Jesus have meant by telling people to love their enemies. I wonder about that and hear others wondering too. Interestingly, the subject of dealing with enemies was prominent in the announcement of Jesus’ birth. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist in Luke 1:67-74 prophesied that Jesus would deliver Israel from their enemies.
One might logically ask what enemies did Zacharias mean. Jesus certainly did not deliver the nation from Rome, the obvious political/military enemies of the day. Some may conclude that Jesus came to deliver Israel from spiritual/supernatural enemies or maybe symbolic enemies like sin and death. I suspect that is a part of the prophecy, but is that all.
In personally thinking about how I have come to view enemies, I notice that for the most part my ”enemies’ have never been anyone I had personally met and knew by name. The occasional school bully may have been the exception but in the vast majority of cases, my enemies had been labeled as such and handed to me by others. Some of those I may have known by name through celebrity, but I had never actually interacted with any of them. An even larger and more obscure group of “enemies” had identified by various groups and institutions to which I was a part. In that way communists were my enemy. People of various religious denominations were on the enemy list. Certain nations, certain lifestyles, certain races, certain political groups defined a collection of individuals I had never met, could not name, but had to call an enemy because the group to which I held allegiance told me so.
With this observation in mind, I ponder whether Jesus simply admonish us to just quit making enemies by so casually labeling them. The moment I begin to think that someone is out to get me, I have started the very real process of creating an enemy.
When the church, the media, the politicians, the commercial interests saturate us with fearful messages defining a new enemy, a new threat, a new reason to fear instead of love, we need to resist, to reject the knee jerk tendency to go along with the crowd. Jesus, the great proponent of the transformative power of love, saw things differently from the way we view them through the carnal mind. If you worry about how to love your enemies, try viewing them as friends instead. You might be amazed at how much differently people react to you when you treat them differently.