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.”
Jesus tells His listeners — those who attend to His Words — to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, and to pray for those who mistreat them. He does not tell His listeners — those who follow after Him — to hate, curse, or mistreat their foes.
The love Jesus calls us to is not lip-service. Love is not saying, “Oh you didn’t hurt me with your cruel words” or “you didn’t damage my life with your unfair actions against me”. Rather love recognizes the harm done and calls on us to turn the other cheek. Love demands we go out of our way to do good in response to evil.
Love does not hide. God tells us that perfect loves literally drives out fear. And, perfect love keeps no record of wrongs, reminds Paul. Love never fails, never angers, never gives up.
We are to persevere in the face of mistreatment. We are never to return an insult with an insult of our own. We are never to be bitter when evil appears to succeed. Rather we are to pray — and we are not to pray for our enemy’s demise, but we are to pray for our enemy’s benefit.
Love desires what is best for the other — always.
God makes it crystal clear that He is holy and just. In Him there is no darkness. He makes it even clearer that He is merciful. Throughout His Word, He speaks of and shows off His great hatred of disobedience, sin, and waywardness. Simultaneously, He speaks of and shows off His willingness and great desire to forgive, restore, and love those He calls His own.
Our part is believing these two truths regarding the nature of God. Believing in God’s wrath necessarily leads to fear, but “perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) Our fear is rather awe of God, a marveling of God’s ability to “forgive the iniquity of Your people; You cover all their sin. You withdraw all Your wrath; You turn from Your hot anger.” (Psalm 85:2-3) “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.” (Psalm 85:11)
Jesus proclaims, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins; I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Luke 5:24)
“If we confess our sins, [You] are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.”
“If God thus loves us, dear friends, we in turn are bound to love one another. Though God has never been seen by any man, God Himself dwells in us if we love one another; His love is brought to perfection within us.”
And how do we love as God loves us? “This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God — God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” (1 John 4:13-16, HCSB)
We love as God loves by “confessing that Jesus is the Son of God.” Through His Holy Spirit, we “are bound to love one another.” A binding contract exists forever among God and us and our brothers in Christ. The contract calls for love — selfless, giving, understanding, tolerant, helpful, generous, caring, kind, heartfelt, committed.
“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, for fear has to do with punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19, HCSB)
“For He bears the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” Jesus bears our sins in His body on the tree; and He lives forever, seated at the right hand of God the Father, continually interceeding for us.
This ongoing intercession of Jesus Christ is our salvation. Without His interventions on our behalf, we would not be acceptable to God the Father.
“Since we are now justified by His blood, how much more are we saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we are God’s enemies, we are reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, are we saved through His life!” (Romans 5: 9 – 10)
This is why Peter is able to say, “Perfect love casts out fear.” No need for fear exists now that Jesus sits on His throne. He has conquered death; and we are made acceptable. Fear has to do with judgment. For us, judgment is complete, having occurred on the Cross.
“When I feel my foot is slipping, Your love, O Lord, holds me up. Anxious thoughts may fill my heart, but Your presence is my joy and my consolation.”
I slip, but God holds me up so that I do not fall. I am anxious, but God is close by; His presence keeps me joyful and consoled. God does not say to me, ‘you will never slip.’ He does not say to me, ‘you will never be worried.’ Instead, He promises to be there for me, whatever my circumstance, whatever my failure.
“Humble yourselves then under God’s mighty hand, and He will lift you up in due time. Cast all your cares on Him, for you are His charge.” (1 Peter 5: 6 – 7)
Remember, “there is no room for fear in love; perfect love banishes fear. For fear brings with it the pains of judgement, and anyone who is afraid has not attained to love in its perfection. We love because He loves us first.” (1 John 4: 18)
Know that God is ready to give us all good things, for He does not withhold His Son from us. Fear not, God is with us.
“The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
First, “love is from God.” (1 John 4: 7) Love does not and never has and never will originate in us. In our natural state, our fallen state, we are incapable of producing love. “Love consists in this: not that we love God, but that He loves us.” (1 John 4: 10)
I repeat this: Love is not from us; rather, love originates in God. “We love because He first loves us.” (1 John 4: 19)
Because love emerges directly from God, “there is no fear” in this love. “Instead, perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4: 18)
What have we to fear since God is for us? Who is able to condemn us since God justifies us? Because God is on our side and because He justifies us, we are to “love the one born of [God.]” (1 John 5: 1) How can we condemn our brothers and sisters when God sets aside His condemnation of us? How can we hate one another when God puts His hatred of the sin in us upon His Son?
“The one who loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4: 21)