Love for Enemies
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 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. 35 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. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Observations & Reflections
In the previous few verses in Luke, Jesus shocked them by stating that the rich and well-fed will suffer in the next life and that the poor will be vindicated. Now Jesus is going to issue some statements that are, frankly, difficult for all people. Of the many difficult sayings of Jesus, these are some the most difficult. The reason why these provide such difficulties is because they focus on the fight between our emotions and our will to obey. To love one who loves us is natural but to love one who hates us is godly.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. (Luke 6:32-33)
Jesus has higher expectations for the people listening. They must strive to do the difficult things even if they are counter to their natural emotions. However, this was not a purely Jewish idea. In fact, it was developing in other cultures in the east and in sectarian Jewish communities like Qumran.
“Do not return evil to the man who disputes with you; requite with kindness your evil-doer … smile on your adversary. If your ill-wisher is [ ] nurture him.” (Counsels of Wisdom)1
In Qumran there was a guideline referred to as the community rule. In it, it states;
“To no man will I render the reward of evil, with goodness will I pursue each one” (1QS10.17–18)
Other teachers in this time period taught praying for one’s enemies and even attempting to win them over with kindness.
“Why is the ‘Hallel’ [the psalms of praise] recited only on the first day of Passover and not on every day during the Passover week, as it is recited every day during the week of the Feast of Tabernacles? Because the Egyptians were sunk in the sea, and I have caused it to be written—’Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth'” (Yalḳ. Prov. 960)
again, “If a man finds both a friend and an enemy requiring assistance he should assist his enemy first in order to subdue his evil inclination” (B. M. 32b, Babylonian Talmud)2
Lastly, the inter-testimental books (the Apocrypha) contained such teachings.
“Forgive thy neighbour the hurt that he hath done unto thee, so shall thy sins also be forgiven when thou prays.” (Ecclesiasticus 28:2)
Jesus’ teaching on loving one’s enemies is radical for sure. However, it is the only way a dying world is going to have a change of heart. It was the new law of grace that turned men’s hearts of stone into a heart of flesh that calls out to the father (Romans 8:15).
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
May we all imitate the mercy and grace of the Lord even to our enemies. A task that is more easily spoken than accomplished.
[Featured image is from the film Passion of the Christ]
1. [Counsels of Wisdom, lines 41–45; cited from the translation of W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature [Oxford: Clarendon, 1960] 101; cf. Schneider, TTZ 82  263]↩
2. [ENEMY, TREATMENT OF AN: By: Kaufmann Kohler, David Philipsson (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5756-enemy-treatment-of-an)] ↩