Recently, my grandfather passed away. While at the visitation and the funeral, gathered around family, we were all reminded that he never had anything negative to say about others. He didn’t speak in an angry way. He loved life and loved others. This was an excellent lesson he taught us, but one that Jesus taught as well.
Its easy to love people who treat you well. However, how do you love someone who doesn’t treat you well? The kid in school who makes fun of you? The boss who takes credit for your work, or blames you for things going wrong? Those people are a bit harder to love.
Jesus tells the Pharisees in Matthew 5:43-48 they are to love their neighbor, but also love their enemy. The King James goes on to say “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” We know Jesus wants us to love our neighbor, that’s for sure. He tells us over and over again. However, the Jewish Rabbis taught that their “neighbor” only applied to fellow Jews. This worked out well because the Jews pretty much hated everyone else. The Romans actually accused and charged the Jews with hatred of the human race.
The problem is that the Old Testament, or no where in the Bible in fact, tells us to hate our enemies. There are places in the Old Testament where God hates evil, and may not care for the evildoer, but he never commands his people to hate their enemies. We are to shower them with unconditional kindness.
I heard a story about Wade Boggs, former third baseman for the Boston Red Sox. He hated playing at Yankee Stadium while playing for Boston, not because of the Yankees but because of one particular fan. This fan would heckle him, yell out insults and profanities. One day, Boggs had listened to this enough. He walked over to the area where this guy was, looked at him, and asked “Are you the guy that is always yelling at me?”. The fan responded “Yeah, what are you gonna do about it?”
Wade Boggs took a new baseball, signed it, and threw it up for the guy to have. The guy never heckled Boggs again. In fact, he became one of his biggest supporters.
That’s what we are urged to do with our enemies. Find a way to show them love, especially the love of Christ in all we do. God is going to bless everyone on this earth, whether they believe in him or not. He sends the rain and the sun to bless even his enemies by common grace (vs 45). We need to love people without discrimination like God loves us. We also need to love our enemies because we need to show there is no greater love than Christian love.