This may be one of the hardest things to do as a follower of Jesus – resisting the urge to retaliate. When we are wronged it’s a natural response to want to avenge the wrong and make others pay. This explains why many of us, myself very much included, are drawn to movies like Taken and John Wick. When we come across verses like the one we have here in Matthew, we can feel some resistance because it goes against our desire for fairness. Take a moment and really consider what Jesus is saying, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:43-44 (NLT)
Ouch! This is easy advice to offer others, but feels very different when I’m the one who has been wronged. But Jesus wants us to understand that in His Kingdom, there are values and attitudes we are called to live out that are the opposite of what we often see in the world. Loving our enemy doesn’t mean ignoring the wrong they have done, and it doesn’t mean that justice shouldn’t be served. For instance, when Dylan Roof murdered 9 members of the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston South Carolina, several family members forgave him, but they also supported the judicial system and wanted him to be punished. Praying for, and loving our enemies, comes from understanding that this is exactly how God has treated us. Listen to what the Bible says, “…you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” Colossians 1:21-22 (NLT)
God extended His love to us when we were anything but “loveable”, and that is what Jesus is saying should be the mindset we adopt as His loved and forgiven children.