Meditating on the Commands of Christ (42): Love Your Enemies??

“You never know God is all you need until God is all you have” (Rick Warren, but possibly from Mother Teresa first). Here is where the rubber meets the road. It’s hard enough to love well even those we do love, but where in the world are we to get the grace to love those who are our enemies . . . those who hate and hurt us, or even those who are opposed to our values and obstruct our freedom to pursue what we believe to be right and good?

Who are our enemies, anyway? In many countries around the world, Christians are miserably persecuted, and so it’s obvious who your enemies are. I pray for you, and I read often about the terrible ways in which believers are tortured and killed. If you are reading this and among those who are suffering persecution for your faith, my heart goes out to you. Psalm 56 provides comfort for those who are pursued by deadly enemies. The title says, “Upon Jonath-elem-rechokin,” which has been translated, “the silent dove in distant places.” Is that you? In this psalm, we learn from David that it’s only through placing the whole weight of our burdens on God that we can overcome fear with faith and overcome evil with good. Jesus was able to go beyond faith to actually love his enemies. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). I read these words, and I know the “theory,” but I would have to be tried by fire to be able to say that I could ever love people so well that I could be put to death and respond the way Jesus did, although I’ve read testaments to martyrs who’ve come close.

In America and many parts of the Western World (and Australia), it’s often not obvious who our enemies are. We’re so well protected by our government that many of us do not have known enemies. For example, can you name your enemies? When I stop to think about it, I can’t! I’m oblivious. Probably if someone doesn’t like me, s/he simply quietly disappears from my life. Is that being an “enemy?” I don’t think of it that way; it seems more like not choosing to be a friend, and in a world of lovely people, of course we all have differences in personal taste and choose to spend time with people who see life most similarly. That’s not being an enemy; that’s just being free to use our limited time to be in community with those we enjoy the most.

So, where are our enemies? Do I need to go out and find some so that I can love them? That brings to mind the admonition about stirring up trouble (Proverbs 26:17). I don’t think God wants us to go there! We have myriad spiritual enemies who are out to destroy our souls, but God doesn’t tell us to love the minions of Satan! Rather we are to resist the devil (James 4:7), flee lusts, and keep company with those who are seeking God (2 Timothy 2:22: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart“).

So, we shouldn’t be looking for enemies, but maybe we (or at least I) should be more on the lookout for understanding whom my enemies are. Studying through the Bible passages that speak of enemies, I found three verses that stood out as speaking about God’s enemies:
*Psalm 68:21 Those who continue in their sins
*Romans 5:10 Those who have not yet been reconciled to God
*Psalm 66:3 Those who have yet to submit their wills to his

I’m listening to Running with the Giants (by a New York Times’ best-selling author, John C. Maxwell), and he makes the point that “Submission is laying down the terrible burden of always wanting to have your own way.” I love that! Have you submitted your will to God the Father and Jesus Christ his son yet? If so, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and not only friends but family! If you have not, then technically, we are “enemies” in the sense that we have opposing views on the reality of the God of Love and Light and his worthiness to be our Lord and Master.

God calls us to love our enemies, whether they are abusive people who actively try to hurt us, or dearly loved people with whom we disagree on spiritual matters. Either way. From the most wicked to the most kind—however others respond to us—we are called to love them! Love God; love others—both friends and foes. If we have to, let’s learn to bleed love. How is this possible? Only through experiencing the love of God in our lives and allowing His love to flow out through us. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Texts for this study: Matthew 5:43-45, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies.” Luke 6:27, “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies.” Luke 6:35, “But love ye your enemies.”

Rise Up, My Love (245): The Joy of Being Desired

Song of Solomon 7:10 “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” This is the third declaration of belonging that the bride has uttered, and there is a beautiful progression in the development of her love. In 2:16, after a time of dealing with all the insidious problems that could have destroyed the tender vine of their love, the young wife declared, “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.” Here, in the springtime of their love, the bride states her first confidence that the one she so ardently longed for has indeed become her own possession, and she his.

The second declaration comes after a season of separation and struggle…after she has learned to appreciate his beauties in a deeper way and their fellowship has been restored. Song 6:3 states, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.” Here the emphasis has changed. She is not predominately interested in her own acquisition of him, but rather in belonging to him. It is now more a delight to her to be possessed than to possess! Do you sense the difference? She is more interested in his feelings and needs than in her own. Whereas the first declaration was “I…and also you,” the second one was “you, and also I.”

Then, after the husband reveals the depths of his love through his magnificent praises from 6:4—7:9, the wife’s focus changes again. In the security of his amazing love, she loses all awareness of self interest and she sees only him. She no longer cares about what is hers; she cares only that she belongs to him and that he desires her: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.”

I wonder, where are our hearts? Is my only concern that I belong to Christ and he passionately desires me? How about you?

“I am my beloved’s.” I couldn’t help but notice the dark connotation in some of the meanings given for dabab from the previous verse. The bride’s praises aroused the sleeping ones to “plot; plan; tell tales.” As we go about sharing the wonderful news of Christ, many are aroused…some to search and find Christ, but others to envy…to plot and plan against him. We are not only a “savor of life unto life” to those who desire God, but to those who reject him, we are a savor of “death unto death” (2 Corinthians 2:16), and we find that while some love us and are drawn to our message, others hate our Lord and therefore us as well.

Perhaps this dark aspect of our pilgrim walk through this world was not troubling the bride at this particular moment, but perhaps there was some awareness of it in her exclamation: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” I belong to him…the world’s most powerful sovereign (and indeed—in Christ—we belong to the universe’s most powerful sovereign!), and he desires me, so I know he will protect me from all those who may “plot” or “plan” or “tell tales” against me! I belong to him…why should I fear what man may do to me?

“…and his desire is toward me.” Since he desires me…us…, why should we not find our perfect contentment in him? Do we find ourselves searching desperately for the love or approval of anyone else? Why should we care if those of this world either love or hate us? If we could truly enter into the wonder of belonging to him and his incredible desire for us, it would give us great peace in facing aloneness and perfect courage in our witness to the world about us. “Perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).

As our praises flow like a fountain of water, we have no need to fear the response of men. Look to him and remember only this: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” One last thought on the fact that our Lord’s desire is “toward” us. This is an amazingly strong statement. In James 4:5, what is translated in the KJV as “The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy” has been alternately translated “desires us enviously,” i.e.: the Lord has a tremendously intense, jealous desire for us to be his, and his alone. His desire for us is so much more passionate than ours for him! The Hebrew word for desire is only used one other time in the Old Testament, in Genesis 3:16. The word is teshuka and carries with it the meaning of “strong desire that impels to action”* or that “seeks loving approval and adoration.”**

Marvel with me for a while over the power of God’s love for us. After Eve sinned by doing the only thing her beloved Creator told her not to do, God pronounced this solemn judgment: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16). Three millennia later (or perhaps even more), the power of God’s passion reverses this judgment, so that the lover takes on the “punishment” (if you will) for the woman’s sin. The wife’s understanding that “his desire is toward me” marks the end of the effects of the curse from Genesis 3:16 on the marriage love relationship.

Instead of the woman longing for her husband to love her and desperately seeking for his approval…instead of finding that her husband takes advantage of his superior strength by oppressing and enslaving her…instead of experiencing all the heartbreaking results of her own sin, the bride is enraptured with the security of knowing that her beloved husband passionately loves and desires her! She is not his slave, she is his queen. She is truly bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. She is his, but praise God, she can entrust herself freely to him because he loves her so utterly that he will not “lord” his lordship over her. What an astonishing proclamation of love’s triumph over sin!

*G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), 164.

**Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 110.

(The wedding dance is from the recent live-action Beauty and the Beast, which we enjoyed together this past month.)

The Three Rondavels of Mpumalanga

From the overlook at Blyde River Canyon, there’s a dramatic view of the “Three Rondavels” (named for circular African dwellings with conical thatched roofs). These fascinating rock formations are shaped like round, grass-topped, huts similar to those still in use today among the indigenous people groups of Africa.   Renier, our guide, explained to us that the people believe evil spirits like to hide in dark corners,              so they make their homes (and even hotel and other structures)                     somewhat round to keep away such unwanted intruders. Of course, these massive shale, dolemite, and quartzite “huts” are monumental in size, rising 700 meters from the ground (which is already 1,390 meters above the river floor below). They are utterly spectacular!Traditionally, the three peaks were known as “The Three Sisters” and were named for three troublesome wives of Chief Maripi Mashile, who was the courageous nineteenth-century Pulana chief that defended his people from a Swazi invasion.Legend has it that the three wives were Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto, and the three rondavels are named to commemorate these irksome busybodies! In this photo, you can see the “three sisters,” and to the right is a long, flat-topped mountain known as Mariepskop, named in honor of Chief Maripi, who used the mountain as a stronghold during the invasion.Blyde River Canyon is gorgeous, and the Three Rondavels are definitely worth visiting, but I’d really hate to be commemorated for being a troublesome wife.                                                            Wouldn’t you?   “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 21:1).I’m also glad that the Holy Spirit indwells believers in Christ so that we don’t have to fear evil spirits hiding in the corners of our homes! Instead, God tells us that we’re protected by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:12-14), and that we do not need to fear evil spirits: Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Later in the same chapter God explains: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).