But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.Luke 6:27 NIV
The topic of “enemies” doesn’t feel very Christmasy this time of year.
Many of us would rather talk about the three kinds of love that are found in the Greek or what it means to love your spouse better, or antidotes on parenting. But nobody wants to learn how to love and serve your Mormon neighbors or the Muslim who has a booth at the mall or the gay couple across the street who just adopted a child (Gasp!). But if we are going to talk about love the way we actually see it in scripture, then there is no greater love than love for your enemies.
The word “enemy” may feel a little harsh but in the Greek this word is primarily used as an adjective and not as a noun as we often use it in our english language which makes a big difference. A quick reminder: an adjective describes a noun and a noun is “a person, place, or thing”. When the Greek uses this word, it is describing someone as being “hated, or hostile”. Two words that are definitely not Christmasy.
(Warning: It’ll get worse before it gets better.)
The point is this:
our Christian values don’t allow us to call someone an “enemy”, that would be rude. Instead we use the terms “lost” or “non-believer” or “being apart of a cult”, “threatens our family values”, “dangerous”. We have a lot more hostility towards those on the outside than many of us would like to admit. You know “Hate the sin, love the sinner”? But how many of us are doing this well? And what does that actually look like? If a devote Muslim moves next door, do you ignore their culture and belief system altogether? Or do you try to convert them first in order to have a relationship with them? Is this love?
On this side of conversative Evangelicalism, we have one way of “loving” those who don’t believe what we do: correction.
We LOVE to correct people.
There is of course an evangelistic desire for people to know Jesus and his great love for them. Our heart is in the right place though our approach to enemy love still seems to be in the dark ages. God didn’t win our hearts by correcting, coercing, or conquering but through compassion and radical connection that came to us in fragile flesh and bone.
Christ embodies this very love through allowing himself to be coddled and not to come conquering. Christ embodied enemy love by his love for us.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body…Colossians 1:21,22 NIV
May we never forget that we were once enemies of God and now, because of God’s kindness and compassion toward us, we are saved. His beloved children.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.Romans 5:10 ESV
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8 NIV
The embodiment of love looks less like correction and more like connecting with those on the outside. How did we know of God’s love for us? Through the life of Jesus. How is your neighbor going to know about God’s love? Through your life. How will your neighbor know of your life if you have not invited them in? Into your life and you into theirs.
However, not every enemy is on the outside.
Sometimes the greatest enemy is sitting two rows down from you on Sunday mornings. That Trump supporter or liberal or that person who you can’t believe calls themselves a “Christian” because they are such an asshole to you. Our enemies have more faces that we often notice, so we find it strategically easier to pick one or two and pour out our redemptive wrath on them instead of doing the one thing Jesus calls us to do in these situations: pray. And let’s just be honest here for a moment, it’s easier to pray for the Muslim to come to know Jesus then it is for a fellow believer in your church who you find offensive.
Advent is a season of waiting, anticipating the coming of God.
Waiting for the embodiment of hope, peace, joy and love to make its home with us here. Even now, 2000 years after Christ came to us as a babe, we are waiting for the return of our Lord to embody fully hope, peace, joy, and love which will forever reign. But till that day, we wait. Though we are not standing still staring at the sky, we have been given a mission: to be the continued embodiment of Christ here on earth through the power of the Holy Spirit. There is opportunity in our waiting. A hundred opportunities a day stand before us to live and share and be His Church, the embodiment of love here on earth. But not just any love:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.Luke 6:32-36
Enemy love. The kind of love that would lay down his life for the hostile and the outsider. This is the radical and irrational love of God that comes to us in this season in the most unexpected way. It can’t be fully comprehended but it can be fully extended, reaching to the farthest corners of the world and into the darkest places of a soul. May we extend the hand of love to those who are far (and near) in this season of waiting. Laying aside our own righteous conquering agenda’s to connect with the other. Embodying enemy love through the power of prayer that re-humanizes those who we seek to corner.
…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:17-19
Who is your enemy right now? How can you pray for them this week?
The activities for each Advent them will be around meditating and meditating. Meditating is about preparing our hearts and minds to engage the embodied message of Advent. Mediating is about connecting people to the message of Advent.
Over the next 6 days, take 10 to 15 minutes per day to meditate on this passage: Luke 6:32-36
Read it 3x or more slowly
Asking God to reveal a phrase or word to you
Pray that word or phrase back to God
Pray for our country this week (or if you live outside the US, pray for us! We need it!) With all the impeachment happenings here in America and divisions we are experiencing within our own faith tradition, there is a lot of opportunities to show enemy love this Advent season.