Marked by Love (Part 4 – to love an enemy)

It is important when considering LOVE as the Mark of a Man or Woman of God to remember that “it is not a mushy feeling or sentimental emotion.”  This is especially critical when considering the third aspect of this agape (uh-gop-ae) love which is offered to an enemy.  Loving one’s enemy is not easy!  Sometimes it means giving up our “rights,” sometimes it means giving Tough Love.  But it is the only way to change an enemy into a friend.  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  MLKing, Jr.

As we have described in the previous blogs, it is clear that we should love our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.  This simply means considering our Heavenly Father in every decision in life, and talking with Him about everything and including Him in the processes.

Loving our families or spiritual brothers and sisters really should not be too much of a problem, assuming this is a mutual love in a family, and that our brothers and sisters accept many of the same precepts by which we live.  There will be differences and arguments, but we have a foundation of faith that we share that becomes the bedrock for building our relationships in love.

But what of the enemy we are commanded to love?  Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:43-44 bears repeating, “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!”  Does He expect us to allow an enemy to harm us, take advantage of us, even kill us?

There are some practical considerations to loving one’s enemy that must be considered or we can actually wind up disobeying other commands Jesus gave, such as Matthew 7:6, “Do not give that which is sacred to dogs; do not throw your pearls to pigs.”

There is so much on this topic that it certainly cannot be fully covered in a 1000 word blog, so I encourage you to use this blog as a prayer stimulus, to ask Father for wisdom and clarity on how to love your enemies, but we cannot ignore this clear command of Jesus and claim to be loving the Anointed One (John 14:15-24; 15:10).

I offer two scenarios for consideration: 1) when you are the target of an enemy, 2) when someone for whom you are responsible is the target.  Again, in real time and circumstances, these situations will call for more wisdom than can be gleaned from a brief blog.

1) When Jim Elliott and Nate Saint flew their tiny plane to visit the Auca Indians in South America, this fierce cannibalistic tribe was to be feared, so they carried long rifles.  But as they left, Nate’s son asked if they would kill the Indians if attacked.  Nate’s answer was profound: “If they kill us, we will go to Heaven, but if we shoot them, they will go to hell.”  He explained they were carrying the rifles only to scare the Indians if attacked.  It did not work.  Jim and Nate and their coworkers were murdered by the Indians, but the long story of it is that almost all the Indians came to accept the Gospel because of their heroic actions and unwillingness to dispatch their enemies to hell!

2) However, in Paul’s description of agape love, he says it “does not delight in evil . . . , always protects . . .”. In Esther we see this in the lives of the Jewish people who had been targeted for genocide by an enemy, but in an ironic twist of “fate” the Jews were provided an opportunity to defend themselves against those who would attack them.  Note, it was not a carte blanch permission to kill their enemies, but to defend themselves if attacked, that is to protect their families from their enemies (Esther 8:11).

For further consideration, let me encourage you to read some Scripture pertinent to loving one’s enemies.  From Exodus 23:4, the Jews were instructed to treat an enemy’s possessions the same way they would treat a brother’s; Job 31:29 suggests it is sinful to rejoice over an enemy’s misfortune or to say bad things against him; David spared his enemy’s life, not once, but on two occasions when he could have killed him and claimed it was the LORD’s provision (I Sam 24:10-19; 26:8-21).

On the other hand, Jesus, the epitome of LOVE, made a whip of cords and overturned business tables in the Temple!  Was he hateful or was it Tough Love? (John 2:13-22); Paul warned not to have fellowship with pagans (I Corinthians 10:20-21) and to have nothing to do with enemies of his message (Ephesians 5:11; II Timothy 3:5).

Finally, remember, as Lane Martin said, “Nothing happens to a Christ-follower; filtered by His love, it only happen for us.”  Your enemy has no power except what the Creator has allowed (Luke 10:19) and the issue is never on whose side God is, but rather on whose side are you? (Joshua 5:13-14).

You were once an enemy of God, but now He has made peace with God possible by His love (Colossians 1:21-23).  So “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18) and remember Proverbs 16:7: “When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone’s way, He causes their enemies to make peace with them.”  Ezekiel gives us the last word on the Creator’s attitude toward His (and our) enemies:  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”  (Ezekiel 18:23).

Love the Creator, Love your family, Love your friends, and LOVE your enemies.  Let your life be Marked by LOVE.

Marked by Love (Part 3)

One of the Marks of a Man or Woman of God, perhaps the most important Mark, is LOVE.  As noted each time we address this, I want to remind you that love “is not a mushy feeling or sentimental emotion.”  This is especially true when we come to Jesus’ radical teaching to love your enemies!  In Matthew 5 He instructs us:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?”

No other teacher in all the world or in any time ever advocated so clearly such an astounding behavior from his followers.  Nor did any of them ask for such a difficult thing!  We’ve all been around people who are pleasing and agreeable.  This simply means “they agree with me.”  Most of us have been with people with whom we disagree, but amicably, nicely, kindly.  We simply “agree to disagree,” but that is as far as our battle goes.

But here is what Jesus expected from His followers:  Turn the other cheek when someone strikes one side of your face!  Forfeit your rights in a legal argument and give up your material possessions if sued!  If someone demands you carry a bag for a mile, offer to carry it for another mile!!  Give to beggars and do not refuse to loan to one who needs!!!  Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you!!!!  All in Matthew 5:39-44.

mlk-1965-selma-march

I have never personally seen this so vividly and literally lived out as in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Selma marchers in the struggle for civil rights in America, when I was a child.  The night before a fateful march to the Alabama’s governor’s mansion in Montgomery, Mr. King went up and down among the marchers and exhorted them, “If you cannot allow a white man to beat you with a stick without fighting back, get out of the line!  Racism in 1964 in AlabamaIf you cannot let a man spit on you, attack you with his fists and carry you to jail, get out of the line!”  He only wanted people who would heed these words of Jesus in struggling for the rights that white citizens of Selma enjoyed without thinking about them.  He wanted the marchers to be loving in the face of cruel hatred.

EPSON MFP imageI have only read about others who discovered the truth of loving your enemies, such as Louie Zamperini, made famous in the film, Unbroken.  In the book, but untold in the movie, was the liberty Mr. Zamperini found in forgiving the guards who had tormented and even tortured him and other prisoners-of-war in WWII in Japan.  Particularly, there was one guard, Matsuhiro Watanabe, nicknamed The Bird, who seemed demon-possessed in his obsession with torturing the prisoners, with special attention to Zamperini.

EPSON MFP imageFor five years after his release in September, 1945, Zamperini, who was having flashbacks and nightmares of The Bird tormenting him, had one obsession:  to kill The Bird if he ever had the opportunity!  But in October, 1949, just five years and one month after being released from the torture of The Bird and his POW camp, Louie Zamperini invited Jesus Christ to enter his life.  He prayed, “If you will save me, I will serve you forever.” Like a cleansing rain, all the fears of the flashbacks and nightmares disappeared, and all the hatred was washed away.  “He felt something for his captor that he had never felt before.  With a shiver of amazement, he realized it was compassion.  At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him.  It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete.  For Louie Zamperini, the war was over.”  L. Hildebrand, Unbroken.

This is not an exercise you can master in your own strength or ability.  You may be able to behave gently toward an enemy for a moment or two, but in our own strength we will shortly revert to the “natural man” and lash out against our enemies.  But in realizing Jesus has forgiven you, you can discover His power in your heart to love even your enemy.  C.S.Lewis, in The Weight of Glory, put it this way, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Peace in the face of a gunChallenged to love his neighbor, an expert in the law tried to justify himself before Jesus by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29).  I would like to challenge you to love your enemy, to which we may ask, “Who is my enemy?”  For some of you dear readers this is not a difficult question to answer.  There are those who would like to kill you because you do not share their views on religion or politics, or because of who your parents are, your nationality or your race.  But for many of us “my enemy” is much more subtle.

Perhaps it is the coworker who annoys you to no end, or the boss who is unreasonable in his demands, or the neighbor who lets his dog poop in your yard.  For me, it is usually the driver who does not know how to obey the rules of the road, or at least uses poor sense and interrupts my plans I must begin to recognize the driver in that other car is a person Father loved enough to send the Son to die for!  And I should love that driver as much as my Father does!!

These probably seem very small and petty to those of you whose enemies would shoot you with a gun if given the opportunity, but the heart is the same:  without Jesus in charge of our lives, we live for ourselves, love only “our neighbors” and hate our enemies.  So let’s together be challenged to bear this Mark of a Man or Woman of God:  let us love, first our families, second our neighbors, and then, even our enemies.

Now there are practical considerations for loving one’s enemy that must be recognized, but very possibly not what you expect, and I will address some of these next week, February 22, 2015.  In the meantime, remember me in prayer “so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (I Corinthians 9:27.)

Marked by Love (Part 2)

When I was in college, I heard the first sermon I had ever heard on John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  For 20 years I had been in churches every Sunday and Wednesday, and to more camp meetings and revival meetings than I could remember.  I had heard all about God’s holiness, His forgiveness, His judgment, His creation, His prophecies, but I could not recall anyone talking about His love!

I learned to read from the Bible and had read many of the references to the love of God and the love of disciples, but had never heard a teaching specifically on the subject of love!  It seems amazing to me now, when I look over all the references from Exodus to Revelation that refer to the LOVE God has for us, that it took so long to sink in, but even in our society, love was generally not expressed with words, nor very publicly.

My Dad and Mom loved each other, and they loved us four children, but we rarely expressed more than a hug as PDA, Public Display of Affection, which was how everyone around us seemed to live, and none of us ever said “I love you” to the others until I was between my junior and senior year of college!

Yet when I heard this teaching at age 20, it leaped off the page of the Gospel of John at me!  This was The Mark of a Christian, which happened to be the teacher’s selection for his sermon title.  We are called to holiness, to do good works, to be kind, etc, but the most explicit expectation of Jesus was that we would “love one another,” and by this prove to the world that we are His disciples.

 

Remember that love “is not a mushy feeling or sentimental emotion.”  It is a decision to look for what is best for another.  This is why the Bible can command us to love each other (John 13:34; John 15:12; Romans 12:10;I Peter 1:22; 4:8).  It is not up to how we feel about each other, it is about how we think and behave toward each other! It is how we choose to relate to each other!

C.S.Lewis recognized this when he wrote, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”  I would go further and posit that by behaving as though you love someone, you are in fact loving him, as we are commanded in the Bible to do.

And there is special encouragement to love those who share your faith in God.  Galatians 6:10 instructs us to do good to all people, but especially to those who belong to the family of believers. This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching that LOVE should be the evidence to a watching world that we are His disciples.

And how do we show this agape (uh-gop-ae) love to others?  The New Testament letters are full of instruction on specifics of how to shine with the love of the Creator.  He taught us that we should be like cities set on hills, or lamps on stands, so that others could see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven (Matthew 4:16)

A good project for your Bible-reading would be to keep a notebook nearby as you read the New Testament letters, and make a notation of any instructions that would fulfill this command that we are to love each other.

Ona and Higor in SnowI Corinthians 13 is of course the Love Chapter and describes this agape love in detail:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

So imagine your next encounters with others with whom it may be difficult to get along, and just be patient, but not just when it is easy; that’s not patience at all!  Be patient when you are in a hurry and they are stopping you from doing what you want or need to do.

Personal ConflictJust be kind, treating them as you wish you would be treated (Matthew 7:12).  Do not be envious of their blessings, nor brag about yours.  Do not be insulting nor hurtful in your words or actions.  Do not look for how you can benefit from them, but see what you can do to be a benefit to them.  Do not be angered easily; there are times anger is appropriate, but these are rare compared to the times we get angry over what matters to us, not to Him.  Protect, do not destroy; trust, do not be overly suspicious; hope, do not give up in disgust; and always keep hanging on, do not give up.

If you look at Israel during the time of the Judges, “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21::25 ESV).  The repeated pattern that began in Judges 2 of Israel abandoning their Creator for idols,  His allowance of enemies to plunder them, the rising of a “Judge” who would lead them to repentance and out of oppression, celebration for a while, until they abandon their Creator again . . . and again . . . and again . . . and again . . . and on it goes!!  By the time I reached Judges 19 I wanted to destroy Israel!!  But the I AM, who is always faithful, did not give up on Israel.  Out of His love, He continued to work with them until He could finally cure them of their idolatry.  And so He calls on us to always forgive our brother or sister, not just seven times, but seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22)!

But how should we love those who are not our brother or sister?  Let’s talk next week, February 15, 2015, about that in Marked by Love (Part 3), a Valentine’s Day Special!

Marked by LOVE (Part 1)

AmmeIn the next few weeks, I will expand on each of the Marks of a Man or Woman of God, but today let’s consider the third Mark: Love.

As noted in the blog, A Marked Man or Woman of God, “The LOVE referred to here is not a mushy feeling or sentimental emotion.”  Agape (uh-gop-ae) love is the unconditional type of love Father has for us, repeatedly demonstrated and declared throughout His word.  And it is the type of love He calls us to, first for Himself.

Now consider if any man walked up to a woman and said, “I command you to love me with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.”   You would consider this guy the ultimate jerk!  A cad!!  A narcissistic idiot!!!  Who is he to command such dedicated love?

Yet this is exactly what Father does in Deuteronomy 6:4-6. “The LORD (I AM) our God, the LORD (I AM) is one. Love the LORD (I AM) your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.”  Jesus repeated and reaffirmed this command in Luke 10:27.  So here is the Heavenly Father commanding us to love him with a complete trusting obedience and subservience that we would find abhorrent if a human even came close to commanding this.  Is He just in this?  Isn’t He being selfish??

Well, here’s the answer!  Love is seeking for the good of the one who is loved, right?  Love is “to look for the best for another without regard for the cost to oneself.”  So Father looked around the universe that He had created, and tried to find someone better for us than Himself.  In Isaiah 44 He says, “Who then is like Me? . . . Is there any God besides Me?  No, there is no other Rock. I know not one!”  He goes on to say, “This is what the ‘I AM’ says, your Redeemer who formed you in the womb. I am the ‘I AM,’ the maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by Myself, . . . who foils the signs of false prophets, and makes fools of diviners, . . .”  So after searching His creation for anything or anyone that would be better for us than Himself, He concluded that there simply was no one to be found who could be as good and loving and holy for us as He is!

Stony and JudyIn 1970 Tony Romeo released a single sung by The Partridge Family that caught this idea of a lover who knew he was best for his beloved because of the sincerity of his love:
Believe me you really don’t have to worry.
I only want to make you happy,
And if you say, Hey, go away, I will,
But I think better still I better stay around and love you.
Do you think I have a case? Let me ask you to your face,
Do you think you love me? I think I love you.

 

Humanly, we must be very careful asserting this type of love for another, because we are fallible and flawed, distorted by sin, like David Cassidy, “You can’t believe everything I say,” and sometimes we are even unable to discern our own hearts.  But in the Father, this is most certainly true: He loves us, and because He is best for us, He can command us to love Him in return, because He first loved us and loves up perfectly. (I John 4:19)

And this love of His was with a great cost to Himself.  He could have looked across the ages when He created Adam and Eve, and seeing the rebellion of His creatures, simply eliminated this creation and started over and over until He found one that did not hurt Him.  But that would have been less love, and more manipulation!  And out of character for who He is.

C.S.Lewis understood this when he wrote in “The Four Loves”: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

For Father to have selectively created us would have denied that portion of His character that makes us “in His image” (Genesis 1:27) that is free will.  And because He is love (I John 4:16) He chose to create us and become vulnerable to His creatures.  Because He (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) does not change and is perfectly consistent within Himself, He created us with free will that allows us to not love Him.

So how do we demonstrate love for Him?  Let’s see about that next week, February 8, 2015 , when we consider the second great command and consider some of its implications, as we continue to look at the Marked by LOVE.Dorjo and Tuya 3