Should Jesus’ command to love our enemies, or his command not to judge, be read literally?
Listen to the audio version: https://bcnilluminations.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/christianlove.mp3%20
“Teach us, Jesus, to hear the cry of our enemies and those we despise.”
What strikes me about Christian love in this passage is that it’s no way to build a society. I mean, can you imagine a nation that didn’t revenge itself? A nation where if the enemy came in and stole our oil we’d offer them the oil wells? This is Jesus’ plan for love when we expand it beyond an individual and onto a social or national scale.
Of course, Christians aren’t called to establish sustainable nations on earth. Christians are called to testify to God’s coming Kingdom. We can serve only one master and Jesus’ way is not one of political and economic prosperity. It is a way that subverts every human notion of justice, fairness, debt, and obligation. These are the building blogs of civilization. And Jesus just marginalized them. This is why God’s ways are considered foolishness—even by many Christians.
Christianity is not about fairness (see Matt. 20:1-16). It’s about God’s love. It’s not about obligation. It’s about love. It’s not about justice, so long as by “justice” we understand the system in which everyone gets their due. Fairness, debt, and justice (in these senses) are the unholy trinity of mammon. It’s the god of human assertion. Christ calls for the sacrifice of ourselves. Mammon calls us to secure ourselves.
So what is this Christian love? What is God’s love? It is unconditional. Literally. Even the wicked receive kindness (Luke 6:35). God doesn’t love because of who we are or what we do. We often forget this, especially in our music and pop theology where we think that God loves us because we’re special. No, God doesn’t love us because we’re special. Then we’d only have to love others who are special. We would be released to love only those who love us. Like sinners do. Like people do who haven’t been freed from sin. The structures of mammon are the shackles of sin. Break them.
God loves because of who God is (not because of who we are). That’s why it’s unconditional love. There’s nothing we can do to change that love. God will always love us because God is faithful to Godself (2 Tim. 2:13). That’s the incredible, subversive power of love that breaks the shackles of sin. Even when we are enemies of God, God gives everything to reconcile us because that’s what God’s love does. Love seeks reconciliation. Love gives. Love empties itself. And it expects nothing in return.
I hope you’re thinking, “This is no way to live in the world! No conditions? No expectations? Can you imagine?” Of course it’s no way to live in the world. Why do you think the Bible tells us that God’s ways are not the world’s ways? Did you think God’s ways would allow us to live in the world? Did you think God’s ways would allow us to settle comfortably into the ways of the world? Become friends with the world?
This is how we are seduced; how we are taught to love only those who love us. This is the power that sin continues to hold even over holiness people.
- Do you think Jesus was serious in this passage when he taught about how we are to love? Should it be read literally?
- Do you think there are exceptions to Jesus’ love? Are there times when, as Christians, we can excuse ourselves from these requirements?
- Why do you think Jesus says what he does in this passage about love and judging? What does it have to do with salvation?
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