Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Love Your Enemies

Something I wrote years ago:

Jesus said: Love Your Enemies (Matthew 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-36).

May His nail pierced hands and feet, pierce our hearts. May His bleeding side empty us of greed. May we wear the crown He wore and lay ours down at His feet. May the beating He took for us help us to turn the other cheek. May the joy that was set before Him be our endurance. May His being forsaken break us to forsake all and follow Him. Besides, when it is all said and done, He was raised from the dead! 
Our faith in the Christ who suffered in the flesh and rose from the dead is at the very core of everything we do. Apart from this revelation we may never pass from the bitter tundra of cold love into the ardent life and testimony of Jesus. We will ever be ruled by our senses, minding earthly things, and grasping for the wind. The lack of faith believers have in this vital truth keeps them at best, lukewarm. The eternal springs of love flow through the vessel quickened with revelations of his eternal estate where Jesus Himself kindles everlasting flames of love in the hearts of His faithful forever. There will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. Neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things will have passed away (Revelation 21:4). 
The wisdom of God’s love liberates those bound with cords of selfishness. For this wisdom illuminates the fearful mind with eternity, creating in them a countenance as bold as a lion. They never shrink back from the jaws of pain, offenses, or death, but are wholly devoted to charity at all costs. All is a gift cheerfully spent on Christ knowing that death only opens up the everlasting doors of fellowship with Him which no man can shut. These with a good conscience strive against the flesh before the “cloud of witnesses” aiming to follow the example of all their brethren who chose to suffer in hope of a better resurrection, who bore the image of Christ in their mortal bodies, for the honor of Him who called them by glory and virtue.
The sun is to the stars as eternity is to the time of this life. Morning dawns and the glorious hosts that glimmered in the night skies vanish. Moreover eternity rises after the night of death and we see that our lives were but a vapor which appeareth for a little time and then it vanisheth away (James 4:14). 
Spiritual things are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14), and to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be (Romans 8:6-7). Many agree that the Bible is true, but only few obey it. These few constitute God’s true elect; for genuine faith is always expressed through obedience. Obedient faith is that which follows a divine revelation. By faith Noah built the ark; he did not bring the ark into existence through concentration of his mind. Likewise the teachings of Christ are divine revelations and all who obey them will inherit the kingdom of God. The crucifixion of Christ writes the words “Love your enemies” upon the hearts of those in whom His Spirit resides.
If we would enter into life eternal we must come in through the narrow gate and follow the way that leads us to this heavenly place. As Jesus our Lord has said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). 
One must ask himself, “Did Jesus teach for the joy of hearing Himself speak?” also, “Did He leave us His teachings to reveal how to live in heaven or upon the earth?” On the earth no doubt!
One thing Jesus taught us was love. Love, when crushed, like a rose rewards its enemies with the sweet fragrance of tender mercy. Love is selfless faith. It cannot be conquered by evil. Love is despised and rejected by men, full of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Love is the victory won through much travail. The essence of this virtue, so long as we are in the flesh, is suffering. Love is the heart of the New Creation, making this Jesus’s magnum opus. The proof of Jesus’s suffering and resurrection is witnessed as offenders, mockers, tormentors, and persecutors gazed upon love enduring trials; the harder they squeezed her, the more she gave. This behavior gives credibility to the faith we profess, for, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). To undergo such sufferings, while rewarding your enemies with patience and kindness is evidence of the resurrection and a “place prepared for you”; hence, the substance of things hoped for. This behavior validates our faith telling the cloud of witnesses and world that we believe what we say we believe. Without these corresponding actions we are merely clouds without water (2 Peter 2:17-18).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). Notice His choice of words: that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. This must be what it means to believe on His name (John 1:12). The word enemies is translated from the Greek word echthros which meaning ranges from a person who violently assails you with words and indignation, to where they are actually hostile, even to murder. Echthros encompasses all grades of enemies from A to Z. Jesus gave a short list, such as those who curse you, hate you, spitefully use you, and persecute you. These four degrees of enemies mean to invoke curses upon; insult, slander, falsely accuse; afflict, torture, and kill. Jesus commanded us to love such as these, for we do not win our enemies to Christ by killing them or defending ourselves; nor do we pray for and bless the dead. The mind which refuses to submit to the rule of such ardent love is enmity against God, for God is such love. 
Humanism has violently gripped and seized, so as to crush the very life of Christianity and has denounced with much approval from believers, the very heights of love Jesus came to teach. How shall those who have heeded such foolishness be blameless on the Day of Judgment? Those who claim to be a Christian yet would not love in this way are a reproach to both Christ and Christianity. We were once all enemies towards God through wicked works, yet He sent His Son to make peace through the blood of His cross, reconciling us to Himself through Jesus (Colossians 1:20). 
We also ought to have such love for our enemies by giving our lives that they too might repent and be reconciled back to God. Shall we desire for the wicked to perish? Certainly not! For we ourselves were perishing from our own wickedness, but God in His mercy, saved us undeserving, wretched, and helpless sinners; shall we not also be rich in such mercy towards our enemies? However those who cannot love like this cannot believe in the resurrection, heaven, or eternal judgment; for our faith in Christ is expressed through such love and a person who kills in self defense or to save his families earthly life or who goes to war defending an earthly nation is no longer walking in this love, thus they are no longer abiding in God, for God is such love (1 John 4:16).
It is very simple: if you believe in using violence as a means to any end, you do not believe in the resurrection of the just and the unjust (John 5:29). However if you do, you must be one of the most cold-hearted creatures on earth.
The strength of love is so colossal that you could wish yourself accursed from Christ for the sake of your enemies, as it is written, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites” (Romans 9:3-4). These same Israelites stoned Paul, laid one hundred and ninety five stripes upon him, beat him with rods, and threw him in prison. These his enemies gave him reason to write, “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).
It is a mind ruled by fear and torment; a spirit hardened with pride; it is a carnal, sensual, earthly mind which would use violence as a means to preserve that which must surely die (James 3:15). What are we hoping to save through war and violence which we cannot avoid losing one day? We may well perish in faith loving our enemies as Jesus both did and taught than to live with unbelief. Remember, spiritual things are spiritually discerned. You will not understand this command which Jesus gave unless you open your heart, pray to God, and remember Jesus crucified and raised from the dead. 
A Christian would rather lose his life for his enemy that his enemy may know Christ. He would rather be conquered along with his family, and to be made slaves and mal-treated, that through much patience and suffering his enemies may catch a glimpse of Christ’s love and be healed. There is no such thing as a just war or defending oneself through violence. The offenders know not what they are doing, but Christians do, therefore it is a double sin on our part if we kill or return evil with evil. As Jesus rewarded His enemies with forgiveness so are we to reward ours with the same through patience and humility, the same mind being in us which was also in Jesus (Philippians 2:5), walking just as He walked (1 John 2:6), following Him (Ephesians 5:1), the just suffering for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18), that they, as we, may be brought near to Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:15), that they may also savor the name which is sweeter than the finest of perfumes.
Love grows all the hotter when it suffers all the more. Suffering is the essence of love, like burning is the essence of fire. When there is nothing left to burn the flames go out. In the same way, love vanishes when it refuses to give of itself. Hence, to deny self, bear the cross and love our enemies is vital to keep His holy fire kindled within. Jesus gave us a new law saying, “Love your enemies,” and he did this very thing on the cross, so that when He bled, He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. This is the pinnacle of all true Christian understanding. However, when killing (or rendering any evil for evil) becomes forgiving, then good has turned into evil.
Likewise did Stephen also, when suffering injuries from the stones, prayed, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin”. Moments before this Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). Whereas most Scriptures in the New Testament describe Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, here, as He witnesses Stephen’s loyalty and love for His enemy, He is seen standing ready to receive his spirit!
No doubt, God is glorified through our faith in the Christ who suffered in the flesh and rose from the dead. For herein lays the wisdom of God’s love. We suffer all things, endure all things, bear all things, believe all things spoken to us by Jesus, rejoicing that He has counted us worthy to suffer for His name, not lightly esteeming that the early disciples for His sake were killed all the day long, accounted as sheep for the slaughter, satisfying the bloodthirsty appetites of the sons of Belial. In death or life these were more than conquerors in that they were governed by this wisdom, for when their enemies assailed them with stones, swords, and chains, ripping off the hide so that at times, even their entrails poured out, this only diffused the fragrance of His knowledge in every place where they endured such appalling atrocities.
We learn we are not pressed beyond what God allows; moreover, we enter His eternal care when we leave this body. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Consider the sufferings of Paul. Do you think he was without Divine protection for even one moment? Certainly not! Rather God suffered Paul to be stoned, beaten, and scourged that through these, His love and Paul’s faith would be proven, that his enemies upon seeing these marvelous things would witness before their eyes the divine nature of which Paul partook, and be converted. 
Obedience is that necessity every believer must have before entering those Celestial Gates of the Redeemed, whereupon it may be written, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). These alone truly expressed love for the King of the heavenly country therefore they shall walk with Him in white, for they are worthy (Revelation 3:4). Their love for Him expressed His love for men! They loved not even their own lives but were faithful unto death, looking for the glorious day when they shall behold Him for whom they have labored, endured, and suffered the loss of all things. Oh what inexpressible joy shall fill their hearts when they soar the celestial skies upon the wings of peace! 
But terror, shame, and darkness upon all of those who believed the lie, that they could make it in, without having obeyed the Prince of peace, as it is written, “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:15). One cannot even imagine what awaits all of the false teachers, prophets, and witnesses who mocked, scorned, and derided the faithful who spoke the truth in love trembling in the fear of God. For it may be that all of their followers will drag them from the walls of the City to a place of utter darkness, and serve as an everlasting worm gnawing upon their memory, thoughts, and feelings. Thus all who teach salvation through grace alone, without the reflection of that grace as essential with all of its mysteries and inner workings, may expect the deepest and outermost darkness as it is written, for these are raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 13). These will forever share the inheritance allotted to the majority of Jeremiah’s generation, whom the LORD sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).
It is true that we love God because He first loved us, but to abide therein we must obey Jesus, because our love for Him is expressed not merely in feeling or thought, but through obedience, as He has spoken, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” (John 14:15) and, “The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me,” (John 16-27) again, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (John 15:10). If we are born of God, having become partakers of the Royal Lineage of love, that same love which begot our dear Savior and Lord, who was pleased to have Him bruised for our sakes, (not that the Father enjoyed watching His Son suffer, but in a similar way as a parent who is pleased when his child turned the other cheek) that we might become His offspring through faith in Him, let us also love in such a way; for he that does so is born of God and knows God (1 John 4:8). “He that says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him” (1 John 2:4). He commanded us to love our enemies.

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“Reason dictates that persons who are truly noble and who love wisdom will honor and love only what is true. They will refuse to follow traditional viewpoints if those viewpoints are worthless...Instead, a person who genuinely loves truth must choose to do and speak what is true, even if he is threatened with death...I have not come to flatter you by this written petition, nor to impress you by my words. I have come to simply beg that you do not pass judgment until you have made an accurate and thorough investigation. Your investigation must be free of prejudice, hearsay, and any desire to please the superstitious crowds. As for us, we are convinced that you can inflict no lasting evil on us. We can only do it to ourselves by proving to be wicked people. You can kill us—but you cannot harm us.” From Justin Martyr's first apology 150 A.D. Martyred A.D. 160