To Follow Christ Is to Love Them When They Hate You

Kevin DeYoung:

There are two difficult realities you must accept if you are to live faithfully as a Christian in the world. (1) You will have enemies. And (2) you must love those enemies. Jesus taught both things quite clearly.

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 10:21-22 “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Accepting either one of these truths is challenging enough. Embracing both of them takes the work of the Holy Spirit.

Some people can accept that they will have enemies in this life. They understand the world may hate them, so they prepare for the worst and get ready for battle. They know that the world is not their home. They expect to be hated for their Christian beliefs. And in fact, they feel some confirmation they are on the right track when they accumulate opponents. They are fully prepared for enemies. But there is little in their demeanour that wants to love those enemies. They are always in battle mode and have no interest in forgiving their enemies or praying for the spiritual well being of their enemies. These folks exhibit lots of courage and little compassion.

On the other hand, some people are just the opposite. They believe in love with all their hearts. They know they must turn the other cheek and accentuate the positive. They care deeply for the feelings and hurts of others. They want people to get along. They try to minimize conflict and find common ground.  They are fully prepared to love. But they don’t have a very robust view of love. They equate love with unconditional affirmation or think love means we don’t challenge faulty assumptions. They are always in bridge building mode and no stomach for ever upsetting someone. These folks exhibit lots of compassion and little courage.

We need both. If you are going to be a faithful Christian in a fallen world you better prepared for people to hate you, and you better prepared to love them nonetheless. Even to the point of death.

Ours, of course, not theirs. That’s the way of Jesus. Tell the truth. Be hated. Love. Die. Live again.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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