fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Love Your Enemies


Love Your Enemies by Julie McAllen

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 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. 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. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Lk 6:27-36)

It’s tough. Really tough. To be mocked, ignored, shunned, taken advantage of, the object of scorn? Suffering for thine enemies takes on many faces. Is the enemy the disease attacking your body from which you seek relief? When the pain is real, is it enough to know that Jesus “carried our sicknesses?” (Is 53:4) When the enemy is one who opposes your faith at work, home or even at church, is it enough to know that Jesus is familiar with suffering, despised and rejected by men? (Is 53:3) We hope in the resurrection, but when the enemy death steals those we love, we still suffer grief. It’s tough to love your enemies. Misery loves company, but misery also seeks immediate relief. We agree, “yes Lord, love my enemies, but get me out of this!”

Regardless of who or what that enemy proves to be, are we given any instruction from God in how we can cope with this perplexing and difficult command to “love your enemies?”

It’s easy to become a Christian. Get saved, go to church, wait for heaven. It’s easy, until you actually attempt to walk in the Spirit, fulfilling the words of Spirit that wage war against your flesh.

Love my enemy? Pray for those who persecute me!!? Who of us has not wanted to skip highlighting that one in our Bibles? We love to get our yellow markers out for the verses that tell us how loved WE are by God, but these ones are harder to accept, let alone apply. It makes little sense to our eyes of flesh when we see these words, but coming from Jesus, we know they are not mere red letters on a page, they are words of Spirit and life (John 6:63).

And so, we need his Spirit to accept them.

The apostle Paul, a saved and deeply spiritual man, outlined for our benefit the battle with sin he endured. Through it, he came to understand that within his flesh, or sin nature, nothing good resided there. (Ro 7:18) Paul did not stay in the infancy stage of his Christian life enjoying the bliss of salvation, he pressed on to maturity to know the suffering of Christ. He learned this through the battle of flesh and Spirit. Through this, Paul concluded it was impossible to please God or have fellowship with him in the flesh (Ro 8:8). What a wretched condition to love God and seek to please him, but fail time after time. Love your enemies? Try it in the flesh and you will know how far from God you really are.

Paul was humbled through his battle with the flesh and thereby could write with authority the truth of his own condition and ours. The truth? We’re hopeless, defeated and enslaved to the sin in us. Who will rescue us from this body of death? (Ro 7:24)

An authentic Christian life is not easy. It is the very real struggle of flesh and Spirit battling it out in our members. Proverbs 3:5 admonishes us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Yes, obey –even when it makes no sense to your flesh. Loving our enemies is such a daunting task. Our flesh resists it, our Spirit knows we are to obey. A battle ensues. What makes sense to the flesh is in opposition to God. And so, in Paul’s raw exposure of the battle, he offers the solution of how to win the war.

Life by the Spirit

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Ga 5:16-18)

What does this mean to “walk by the Spirit?” Is it to be continually in a love fest with the Lord overflowing with bliss? Oh that it were! But notice what Paul shares about this after he outlines the struggle of flesh and Spirit for us.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Ro 8:12-17)

We have an obligation. It is to put to death the misdeeds of our flesh. One of which is a sinful inclination to withhold love from our enemies. Our flesh is opposed to giving them anything good. It is impossible to do this without God’s help. And so, how do we love them? How do we pray for them? Oh Jesus, help!

Our High Priest

The letter to the Hebrews outlines the priestly role of Jesus Christ who has entered the Most Holy Place with his own blood, in fact, the blood of God (Heb 9:12, Acts 20:28). And by this blood, we were invited into the New Covenant of which he is our mediator. The righteous blood of Jesus purified us to stand before the throne of God with confidence (Heb 10:19-22) And it is there, in that confidence that we trust the promise Jesus made at John 15:16 that what we ask in his name it will be given. To utter a prayer simply adding “in Jesus’ name” is not a magic formula however. It is the assured expectation from the prayer of intercession in which we become aware that we are not the ones praying. For in his position as High Priest, Hebrews 7:25 states that he is always alive and interceding for us. When he became the mediator of the New Covenant, we were invited to pray in his will and not our own.

As the body of Christ here on earth, we became the temple in which his Spirit dwells. The Spirit is always alive and interceding through us. If you’ve ever had the experience of being awakened in the middle of the night to pray and yet not know why or for whom, you understand the meaning of an aspect of walking in the Spirit.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Ro 8:26-27)

To groan and search in intercession under a burden not even knowing why is not the pleasant experience we seek in prayer, but it comes upon us like an unexpected wind. Our obedience is simply to remain in prayer waiting for a breakthrough. When we are not given the why or the who but only the burden, it comes out as “the groans that words can not express” for if we knew what to pray, we’d just say it wouldn’t we? But the Spirit-led prayer is the way in which Jesus intercedes on behalf of the saints. Without even realizing it, sometimes we pray for our enemies or those opposing other believers. When we faithfully avail ourselves to his work, relief comes when we become aware of the power flowing through us and out of us knowing that something or someone is being loosed in heaven (Matt 18:18). It’s a wonderful shared blessing when the Spirit reveals who it is we’ve been interceding for as we wait to see how he carries it out in this realm. When that person tells you how recently some “coincidence” occurred that solved a problem they’d been dealing with, our expressions of “praise God!” are most sincere. It’s no longer a praise for their “good fortune” in the happy coincidence, it is in the very real understanding that God had it planned for them and heard the cries of their heart in advance, but before he would pour out the blessing, he invited someone here on earth to speak it into existence through prayer. For everything that is good is created from his word, not our own. He invites us to intercession, he invites us into his divine nature and purpose.

So we see that the Spirit is capable of praying blessings through us. As our flesh resists loving our enemies, do you see how it is that we could pray for them? The obligation is not so much “pray for your enemies” as it is not to obey our sinful nature and live according to it. (Ro 8:12) We obey the Spirit’s lead.

When faced with the very real and very difficult task of loving those whom your flesh resists, we are not obligated to listen to the desires of that flesh–we are under command to live in the Spirit. Too often the concept of being “Spirit-filled” has been reduced to the pleasantries of worship. While prayers of adoration and corporate communion with the saints is ordained by God and necessary for our joy and refreshment, the suffering and burden that comes with the alignment of our wills to God’s is also part of the Spirit-filled life.

So God asks us to “love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who abuse us.” Is he asking us to be doormats? What is God’s goal in this? It remains as in all things, “to conform us into the likeness of his son.” This is why we were called in the first place (Ro 8:29).

Jesus, the firstborn among many brothers, walked perfectly by conforming his flesh to that of the Spirit. Paul also “pummeled his body and led it as a slave.” (1 Co 9:27) Yes, we DO have an obligation. It’s painfully stated as our assignment to put to death the misdeeds of our own sinful nature.

 Our adoption

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (Jn 1:12)

It is bliss to have the revelation that we belong to Christ having been adopted as children of God. Our spirit testifies with his and we cry out “Abba Father!” It is good to belong! But what kind of Spirit did we receive?

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!” (Ro 8:15)

The same Spirit of adoption is not a spirit of fear! Fear makes us retreat from an enemy. Fear makes us protect our own.

Look now at your High Priest. He knows your fears, your situations and your sufferings. You have taken comfort in that understanding. But the pain is still there, causing your flesh to cry out for relief to be removed from this enemy.

Now look again at Jesus. He was enthroned in the heavens before coming to our earth. He looked down from that vantage point knowing that he was about to enter a hostile environment as a helpless baby, dependent upon sinful humans. He knew so well the suffering he would endure at the cross that he sweat drops of blood asking the cup of his affliction to pass if there were any other way. There was no other way. So, FEARLESSLY he came to earth. FEARLESSLY he presented himself to those he knew would one day spit in his face and nail his hands. He didn’t retreat. He faced the greatest enemy of those he loved. He faced death for all of us. He was moved by love, not fear. Perfect love had cast out fear. (1 John 4:18) And this is the same Spirit we received. And this is the Spirit praying for our enemies.

We do suffer. Maybe not at a literal cross, but by putting to death our own sinful nature. The nature that fears the enemy, the nature that retreats, the nature that refuses to bless, love or pray for those who oppose us. Our Lord died for us while we were yet his enemies (Ro 5:8-10), he asks us now to do the same. Oh God, help us!

And so, given his Spirit, we are commanded to love our enemies. We come before him, acknowledging our sin—the reluctance of our flesh to love and to bless. And we ask for a Helper. God has given us his Spirit, not so we can separate ourselves from our enemies, but to enable us to love them and thereby reflect his glory.

and if (we are) children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Ro 8:17-18)

Keep yourselves in God’s love, Julie

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August 9, 2011 - Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions, Prayer Requests | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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