“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
“Like father. Like son.”
We inherit personality traits and physical characteristics from our parents. It is not uncommon for us to point out those similarities with expressions like:
“You’re acting just like your mother.”
“You looked like your dad when you did that.”
“I can see your father in you.”
Some claim inherited behavior is genetic. Others point to learned behavior. I suppose that would be the “monkey see — monkey do” theory. I’m persuaded that both rationales are true.
Both of my sons like to cook. That is a behavior they learned from me. It’s something they saw me do many times. It was a skill and a thing of joy I learned from my grandmother.
My oldest son has his mother’s tender heart and compassion. My youngest son is generous and loves to help people. These traits are definitely from his mother but, hopefully, some of that behavior was learned from me. Both of them have a stubborn streak. Surely they got that from their mom.
Just as we take on characteristics of our earthly fathers and mothers, we also reflect the nature of our Heavenly Father. In today’s focus scripture, Jesus teaches that we are to reflect the love of our “Father in heaven.” To belong to God is to inherit and acquire His character traits. Since our “God is love” (1 John 4:8) then we are to be people who love. The love we are to demonstrate is extraordinary love that transcends the norm of human love. This love is not just for family and friends but also includes our enemies, and those who persecute us.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” That is a tall order. God has raised the bar on love to include those who hate us. Not only are we to love our neighbors… but our enemies as well, expected behavior for a child of God.
Jesus uses this description of how God loves His enemies: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” As I look out my window this morning, I see a beautiful sunrise. I can thank God for it and even praise Him for creating it. But this blessing isn’t just for me. It is for all around, both Christian and non-Christian.
As your day progresses and you encounter people, it then becomes your responsibility to spread sunshine into their lives. Your sunshine is not to be given to a select few. It is to be given to everyone. By so doing, you are showing yourself to be a child of God.
Sunshine is expressed in a smile, a kind word, gentleness, forgiveness, or a word of encouragement. It is given freely to all without regard to how you have been treated. As a child of God, your love for others is to act on a higher level. It is to emulate the love of your Heavenly Father.
Who is your enemy? Love them. Pray for them. Who is persecuting you? Love them. Pray for them. Let your sun shine on them.
Some years ago there was a man who was mean and hateful toward me. It seemed as if it was his goal in life to make my life miserable. Occasionally, I visited him and brought gifts as a demonstration of my willingness to love him despite the way I had been treated. On one meeting he growled, “Why are you doing this for me?” I wanted to tell him I was “loving my enemy,” but I opted for simply saying it was “something I wanted to do.”
I wish I could tell you that my efforts at loving as God loves changed his disposition toward me. In reality, it is unlikely your enemies will return your sunshine. They may well go on persecuting and despising you. So it is with so many of those who are recipients of God’s universal blessings. Their disposition may never change toward God. But that doesn’t stop God from acting true to His nature.
Jesus’ emphasis here is not on what you get back for giving sunshine to those who don’t deserve it. His focus is on your relationship to your Heavenly Father. Because God your Father loves… you love… and in so doing you prove that you belong to Him.
The Lord’s assignment today is a real challenge but worthy of the effort. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Show yourself to be a child of God.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Good Works and Why They Matter
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.