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.

A Marked Man (or Woman); an Introduction

A “marked man” used to refer to one who had done something for which he was going to suffer. And our usage of the term may turn out to be the same at times. But I wish to consider what constitutes the “Marks of a Man (or Woman) of God.”

These marks are not what many outside of faith would expect.
They do not include any of the following:
Regular Church Attender
Nice to NeighborsIMG_0327
Gives Lots of Money to Charity
Never Cusses
Lives a Moral Life
Goes to a Religious School
Observant of Religious Holidays

Please understand, none of these are opposed to the Marks of a man of God, but they do not mark a man as one who belongs to God. Anyone may do these things listed and not have anything to do with God.

There are three distinctions, or Marks, that will mark a Man of God, and I will address each of these in more detail in blogs that will follow. But for simplicity, let’s consider first what the three distinctions are in general.

These are presented in journalistic style of the most important idea first, and developing it later, in case someone is inclined just to read the first paragraphs for a quick summary . . . in which case, I may have lost you already!! 😉

The first Mark of a Man (or Woman) of God is LOVE.
The second Mark is Reading and Studying the Bible.
The third Mark is Prayer.

Wow! That is a lot to digest, even if you just stop reading there, if you are thoughtful about these things. But allow me to clarify each of these a little, with more thorough treatment to follow in subsequent blogs.

The LOVE referred to here is not a mushy feeling or sentimental emotion. It is the fluid water of life that can take any shape depending on its surrounding, yet is so strong that not even rocks can resist its persistence. It is more powerful than hate (which is not its opposite), it is consuming of the one who loves, yet fulfilling and completing. Its simplest definition is “to look for the best for another without regard for the cost to oneself.” It is the stuff that made Father create us; it is the stuff that makes Him still reveal Himself to us; it is the stuff that took Jesus to His cross; it is the stuff that will remain when faith is no longer needed because we will see Him face-to-face, and hope will be unnecessary, because all will have been fulfilled and completed. But more on these in another blog.

Reading and Studying the Bible is not like studying Holy Writing of other faiths. The written Word of God has been provided for us over a passage of 15 centuries by 40 different authors, but in an area spanning less than 10,000 miles2 (26,000 km2) of territory. But the constancy of its themes, the consistency of its revelations, and the thoroughness of its addressing the human condition make it a full and complete guide for faith and life, making any other unnecessary, and extremely weak by comparison. It has never been disproven on any point of history or science, although it is not intended to be a complete history nor a scientific text. It has been the most challenged book of history with detractors trying to discredit it since Jeremiah’s scroll was burned by King Jehoikim (Jer. 36), yet it has stood up to every challenge when all the information was gathered. A good resource for questions about the Bible and its authenticity is found at http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-God-Word.html. In the meantime, Wikipedia and many other online resources follow the old tripes of trying to discredit the Bible. Read carefully, all the time, even this blog!

Many other books may have some value in providing historical context or showing what men teach each other when they lack the Light in God’s Word, but only the Bible has stood the test of time and proven to be true in every word in every way at every level. Its effect on individual lives, its transformative power in societies, and its prophetic accuracy all attest to its distinction over all other claims of Holy Writing. Truth is self-evident to the seeker of Truth, and it rings with a crystal pitch like pinging a goblet of fine glass. The Bible has that ring. The lover of Truth will discover it to be all he needs for a rule of faith and practice.

Finally, Prayer is more than the recitation of words into the air. It is a two-way communication with Father, our Creator. He is so vastly higher and Other than we are, as Trish O’Connor says, “Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.”  This is true when humans begin with their own perceptions, but He is willing to explain to us what we are able to understand. In this case, we are not merely ants annoying a picnicker. He loves each and every one of us “ants” and places the sugar for us, and shows us what He is like; He even became an “ant” like us, so that He could more completely explain the rest of His creation, and so that we could communicate better with Him.

So these three mark a man or woman of God: Love, Bible Reading and Study, and Prayer. Have you heard from Him lately? He is there and He is not silent! Are you listening? Next blog, next week, January 18, 2015.