Part IV of our series on Doing Good
When we search the Scriptures in order to grow in the Work of Mercy of doing good to one’s enemies, we hear Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43-44 and we immediately ask, “Um… How do I do this?”
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44)
But we need to always remind ourselves that our first focus—and our main focus—when we look at each Work of Mercy is to ask, “How is God doing this in our lives today?” And that’s what Jesus is trying to help us see in Matthew 5. Look again at those verses we were just looking at, but this time add in verse 45. If you leave that one out, you’ll miss Jesus’ whole focus:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] 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. (Matthew 5:43-45, emphasis mine)
So the focus of Matthew 5:43-45 isn’t us, it’s God. Jesus is showing us that God is present and active any time we are having a conflict with an enemy. Quite often we fail to see this.
Our thinking usually goes like this:
- An enemy just hurt me.
- I want to hurt them back.
- But I am a Christian, so I am supposed to do good to them.
- I will bake my enemy a cake.
But this kind of thinking reduces God to merely an inspiration.
That is, we don’t think of God as present in the conflict except as a voice in our heads saying, “You better love your enemy. That’s what I did.” So in a conflict situation we (mistakenly) believe that the two main people involved are us and our enemy. And we (mistakenly) think that it is our job in this situation to love our enemy.
But God wants us to see the situation differently. He wants us to see that every time an enemy hurts us, he is present. Not only is he present, but we can trust him. We know that he loves us. He hasn’t abandoned us.
Imagine that you are a very young child. You are going somewhere with your mother or father. An enemy comes up and hits you.
What is your reaction?
Even if your parents aren’t very good, if you are a very young child you will probably react by looking up at your mother or father and saying, “Mom! Dad! He just hit me!” And you will trust that your parent will step in and fix the situation.
Now, imagine that you have a very good parent who always takes care of you (I hope this is not just imagination anymore!). What if you got hit and they did not step in and fix the situation?
If they were a very good parent who always took care of you, you would probably think, “Well, this is unusual. I just got hit by this enemy, but my dad is not doing anything. I wonder why? He is a very good parent, so I think he must have a reason why he is not doing anything. Maybe he is trying to teach me something. Or maybe he is trying to teach my enemy something. All I know is, I can trust my dad. He must have a reason why he is standing there. Maybe he is even doing something and I can’t see it.”
This is exactly what Jesus is trying to show us about himself and our heavenly father.
They are present every time we get hurt. In our next post, we’ll find out why that should change our approach to our enemies.
How might the knowledge of how God is present when you are hurt change the way you think about your enemies?
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