Lenten Devotional 2021: Day 24

Friday, March 12 – Written by Nora Sanders

Love Your Enemies Matthew 5:43-48

“Love your enemies.” I love this passage. I also struggle with it.

Sometimes it is challenging enough to love the people we love as perfectly as we want to, let alone loving people we don’t even like.

I don’t think of myself as having a lot of enemies. “Enemies” is such a strong word. But for sure there are people I disagree with, people I disapprove of, and even a few people I actually dislike. And no doubt there are people who disagree with me, disapprove of me or dislike me. It doesn’t seem like much of a foundation for love.

That is the way with Jesus, isn’t it? He challenges us. The vision he offers doesn’t come easily, but if we could achieve it, what a beautiful world this would be – so achingly beautiful that we want to try.

It is important to note that we are to love our enemies, but not necessarily to like them. In our society and in the English language the two words are so closely intwined that we need to think about how to go about loving someone we don’t like. We need to figure out how to put this into practice. I think there is a clue in the direction that follows, that we are to “pray for those who persecute you.” If we try to pray for someone we dislike, disapprove of or disagree with, something interesting happens. As we lift that person up to God, asking for God’s love to surround them, we find ourselves thinking about them as someone in need of God’s love.

Maybe that will remind us of the times when we have had a particular need to feel God’s love surrounding us. Our times of need are not always the times when we are most deserving of God’s love, and yet our faith tells us that God’s love is there for us whether we deserve it or not.

Which I guess means that God’s love is there for my “enemy.” And if God loves that person, shouldn’t I be able to love them too?

There is another thing I think about when I reflect on this call from Jesus that we are to love our enemy. I think maybe Jesus was trying to do us a favour. He would have seen how hate eats away at the one who hates. The hated one may be unaware that they are hated, or may know but not care, but the one who harbours hate harbours something that that is soul destroying.

Jesus understood that loving our enemies can release the hardness in our own hearts. Praying for our enemies turns us to God and opens us to experience God’s grace.

Prayer: Loving God, you have challenged me to love my enemies. It is hard for me to love people who I think are nasty and mean and undeserving … until I remember that your tender love is there for each and every person. I am not perfect like you, but I hear the call to love my enemies, and I will do my best to share your love in the world.