The love that Jesus demands from his disciples is not a feeling or an emotion. Jesus commands Christians to love as an act of the will. It is a decision that we make. It is a decision to desire good for the other. That is what godly love is. Godly love is not:
-liking that person
-enjoying that person’s company
-feeling good or warm and fuzzy about that person
-approving of that person’s sin and evil behavior
-completely understanding that person
-an absence of anger toward that person and/or injustice
-an absence of accountability for that person’s actions
Godly love desires the good of the other, which would include the healing of mental, physical and spiritual wounds and the removal of any evil influences that have taken hold of that person. Hence, Jesus told his followers to love their enemies and to pray for those that despitefully used them and persecuted them for his name’s sake. Human perpetrators of evil are perhaps mentally ill, deeply wounded or even possessed by powers of darkness we cannot comprehend. We live in a world that is both natural and supernatural. We cannot see all ends, but Jesus can. According to him, love and prayer is an important response. He showed us that very thing, even from the cross.
Love of enemy is probably one of the hardest commands of Jesus Christ, but also one of the most critical. The closer to home it hits, the harder it becomes. I don’t know how I would react to evil acts perpetrated against my own family. I don’t know if I could find my love of enemy hidden within all of my anger, grief and desire for vengeance. It is hard enough when evil hits a family I don’t even know. But, I also know in my heart that such love is precisely where the rubber meets the road where Christianity is concerned.
I think about Pope John Paul II meeting with his would-be assassin and forgiving him. I think about the Amish folks that expressed forgiveness for the murderous attack to their community. I think about the United States being called a Christian Nation by so many. There are lots of prayers for peace. I wonder how many sermons will be about love of enemy this Sunday. I hope our prayers for peace include the love of enemy Christ requires of us. Scripture says that without love, we are nothing. Yes, perpetrators need to be held accountable. But, if our prayers for peace are tainted by hatred, they might be more noise than prayer.
All the Bible knowledge and Christian apologetic skill in the world is nothing if it’s not put into practice in real life. I’m working on my attitude. God help me. God help the victims of evil and violence. God help the perpetrators of evil and violence. God help our world.