“Christians, this is how much Jesus loved you. On that horrible day, the Lord could have come down from the cross and poured out holy wrath upon his enemies. He could have given them that which they deserved. However, because Jesus loved you — his enemy — and wished to atone for all your sins, he stayed affixed to the cross and endured the Father’s justice.”
With words, Jesus teaches his disciples to be merciful and gracious. They are to love their enemies, do good to those who are harming them, pray for those abusing them, and bless those in the process of cursing them.
On the evening of his arrest, Jesus again teaches his disciples to be merciful and gracious, but this time he does so through his action. Malchus is one of those who comes illegally and surreptitiously to arrest Jesus. He is numbered amongst the antichrists, and in the process of binding Jesus his ear is removed by Simon Peter’s sword. However, despite his animosity, Jesus expresses love and heals this man before he is carried away to the place of inquisition and torture.
The next day, while being crucified, Jesus again teaches his disciples to be merciful and gracious. After a horrid night and day, Jesus is weary. He is bleeding from head to toe. A crown of thorns is imbedded into his skull, and his face is bruised and raw from being punched and having his beard forcefully removed. His back and sides are severely lacerated. His wrists and ankles are pierced, and with every breath immense pain surges through his battered body. Jesus is naked, and crass men are presently at the foot of his cross mocking him and casting lots for his garment. These are vile individuals in the process of pouring out contempt upon an innocent and loving teacher. Along with Lucifer, these men deserve the hottest subdivision of hell. However, while in the process of abusing Jesus, the Son of God prays for his blasphemous and murderous neighbors:
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:34)
What unnatural, undeserved, unconditional, and sacrificial love! And this heavenly affection is directed at unrepentant enemies.
Christians, this is how much Jesus loved you. On that horrible day, the Lord could have come down from the cross and poured out holy wrath upon his enemies. He could have given them that which they deserved. However, because Jesus loved you — his enemy — and wished to atone for all your sins, he stayed affixed to the cross and endured the Father’s justice. What unnatural, undeserved, unconditional, and sacrificial love shown by Jesus to you — his unrepentant enemy.
Christians, this is how much Jesus still loves you. Satan plays the role of the accuser; he loves to magnify your sins and point these out to the Heavenly Judge. However, Jesus is the intercessor who continually refutes Satan’s charges. He is your never-failing advocate who enjoys proclaiming, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Believer in Jesus Christ, your Savior watches over you. He sends his Spirit to lead and comfort you. For you he prays without ceasing. And one day you and he will be physically reunited. Right now, Christ delights in watching over you. He is exited about his future reunion. He is your lover, your best friend, and your betrothed spouse, and this is despite the fact that you consistently do him wrong. You are his less-than-faithful spouse, and he has unnatural, undeserved, unconditional, and sacrificial love for you.
Christians, this unnatural, undeserved, unconditional, and sacrificial love, even for your enemies, is what God has planted in your new soul. It is what he has called you to express to others, and it is what he will help you to exhibit. Christian, you are clothed in Christ. You are a new creature. You are a saint, and every day the saintly image of Jesus is to be shown more and more. This is his commandment. This is his calling. This is your duty. This is your growing desire as you long to live more and more like your Master. When your affections for Christ are hottest, you will have an unnatural, undeserved, unconditional, and sacrificial commitment to the good of your neighbor — even the one who is your enemy.
Therefore, with this reality in mind, let us pray for both opportunities to show such love and greater success doing so. Let us pray that Christ and his Spirit will …
- Let us love our micromanaging and abusive bosses.
- Let us love our annoying coworkers.
- Let us love our less than ambitious and lazy employees.
- Let us love our nosey or noisy neighbors.
- Let us love our inconsistent and domineering parents.
- Let us love our thankless, rebellious, and disrespectful children.
- Let us love the boy or girl who mocks us at school.
- Let us love the less than just teacher or administrator.
- Let us love the competitors on the other side of the field. (Perhaps the referee too.)
- Let us love the individual and candidate with opposing political views.
- Let us love the unfaithful, disconnected, and narcissistic spouse.
- Let us love the gay-rights proponent parading his lifestyle.
- Let us love the racist still causing division and strife.
- Let us love the transgendered and terribly troubled neighbor.
- Let us love the one who has defrauded you and/or your child of opportunity.
- Let us love the one preaching and believing a false or diluted Gospel.
- Let us love the one maliciously mocking and spreading slander.
Yes, these individuals are God’s enemies. They are sinful, self-focused people who deserve wrath and vengeance. They deserve to reap that which they have sown. Horrible consequences should rightly come their way. They are people who should not naturally receive God’s undeserved, unconditional, and sacrificial love. They are like you and me!
Yes, justice is to be shown throughout the land. Let us support our magistrates and protect those who are being abused.
However, Jesus shows unnatural, undeserved, unconditional, and sacrificial love to his enemies in the garden and on the cross. In addition, he has continually shown such to us. Believers in Christ, this is God’s holy, good, and impossible will. Our Lord and Savior wishes for us to show forth such love to our adversaries. Therefore, let us confess our sin and our need. Then, let us look for our next opportunity to love as Jesus loved. Today, he will help us do that which is so unnatural, undeserved, unconditional, unreasonable, and sacrificial. Today, he will help us love our neighbors — even our enemies.
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.