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Love Your Enemies

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Written by Patti Greene
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In 2018, a horrible accident occurred in Dallas, Texas. Amber Guyger, a Dallas police officer, was given ten years in prison. Amber fatally killed Botham Jean, an innocent man, as he sat in his apartment eating ice cream when she entered an apartment mistakenly thinking it was her apartment. Instead, she entered the man’s apartment, who lived one floor down from her. If Botham’s family had a right to hate this woman, it would be understandable.

Luke 6:27-38 (New American Standard Bible) tells how people are to love their enemies and do good to those who curse and mistreat others. These verses mirror Matthew 5:43-48, where Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”Along with being told whom one is supposed to love, the Bible states how to love these purported enemies. In outlining Luke 6:27-38, a person can see how Jesus wants His children to act toward their enemies. This passage unfolds from start to finish by giving instructions on loving enemies, how to act toward them, and the results of acting in a godly fashion toward foes.

  • Loving one’s enemies (Luke 6:27-28)
  • Handling physical abuse and giving to those who ask (Luke 6:29-30)
  • Treating people equally (Luke 6:31)
  • Crediting, loving, and lending (Luke 32-34)
  • Loving one’s enemies and being merciful (Luke 6:35-36)
  • Giving, condemning, and pardoning others (Luke 6:37)
  • Measuring others (Luke 6:38)

However, one must ask, “Who is the enemy mankind is supposed to love?” In the Bible, three enemies, also called foes or adversaries, can be seen—the world, the flesh, and Satan. This paper will discuss each verse in Luke 6:27-38, emphasizing loving one’s enemy and what responsibilities believers have in dealing with enemies Biblically.

Context

One must look at the historical-cultural context of Luke to gain a complete understanding of the Book of Luke, Luke as a man, and the audience he addressed. Through the eyes of Luke, one gains a better understanding and perspective of his writings.

In The New Testament in Antiquities by Gary M. Burge and Gene L. Green, the authors discuss the relationship between The Gospel of Luke and The Book of Acts as a “two-volume” set with many overlapping themes. Luke’s main emphasis revolves around salvation, which he deems is for both Jews and Gentiles. Most scholars believe that Luke was penned in Rome between 60-61 A.D., and most also agree that he was the author of this book. Luke is a cultured, organized writer, also known as the beloved physician, whose sources come from eyewitnesses and multiple servants.

Luke wrote much of this Gospel about how individuals are either in need or how they conduct themselves through God’s Spirit. This Gospel can be seen in some of Luke’s most famous stories, i.e., the great catch of fish on the Lake of Gennesaret, the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus, and the robbers as they were dying on their crosses.

Luke wrote his Gospel from Rome. Readers of Luke should know that many believe Luke was an early gentile convert to Christianity. Who’s Who in the New Testament states, “He became the loyal and indefatigable secretary, doctor, and companion of the Apostle Paul.” Luke accompanied Paul on his second and third missionary journeys and his fourth and final missionary journeys, which are not mentioned in Acts. Luke traveled the Aegean from Troas in Asia Minor to Philippi in Greece . . .then he accompanied Paul on his final journey from Caesarea, the seat of the procurator of Judea, all the way to Rome. There he loyally remained with Paul throughout his captivity. From Luke’s writing style, one can observe that Luke was a sophisticated and knowledgeable man whose writings in Luke became one of the three synoptic gospels, along with Matthew and Mark. Luke’s writing shows a more generous spirit to the Roman authorities than the Gospel of Matthew and John did.

Luke’s gospel was written to Theophilus, a man of high status who shared it with people everywhere. John Martin notes that Theophilus (lit., lover of God) was a common name during the first century. Luke wrote this gospel to Theophilus to show him the reality of Jesus Christ. From the 1st century to this present age anyone can receive Jesus. Many of the intended audience in early Christianity (Jews and Gentiles) were ready to learn truths about relating to people—including how to love their enemies.

Although there is debate on the literary genre of Luke, it appears that it is a combination of both history and biography The author of this paper believes it was written more from a historical perspective. Luke’s objective in writing this book comes first when he unveils his purpose—emphasizing the “fulfillment of God’s plan.” The writing style is simple to understand and his logical organization becomes evident as one reads from Jesus’ birth to ending with Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, always emphasizing salvation in every personal situation he finds himself in such as in Luke 17:19 and Luke 7:49-50. The casual reader may not notice that in the latter part of the book, Luke shifts from third person to first person in the latter part of the book. This shift is known as the “we” section of the book. Many scholars believe this could have been written when Luke accompanied Paul face to face.

Luke, an investigative and orderly writer, created an easy-to-follow line of thinking. This continuity is seen in Luke 6:27-38 when he goes from loving one’s enemies to doing good to those who hate you. Luke informs people how Jesus wants them to act from loving enemies to not judging others. These verses involve how to treat people, including those who are an enemy. The Beatitudes, which are a basis for the blessings and woes of living precede this section and create a natural flow into how to act toward others. The verses following Luke 6:27-28 are a beautiful display of Jesus’ illustrating how one should live through a parable along with statements and questions teaching believers how to live, i.e., understanding that a pupil is not above their teachers, a good man out of good treasure brings what is good. As one ponders how to treat their enemies, one should consider their heart and desire to follow the principles outlined in the Bible.

Content

Luke’s Sermon on the Plain and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount are similar.  In each sermon, Luke 6:27-38 and Matthew 5:43-48, one verse has been debated and examined over the years. This debate revolves around the command to love one another and how loving neighbors and enemies should be conducted. William Barclay says, while both pericopes start with “a series of beatitudes, there are differences between the versions of Matthew and Luke, but this one thing is clear—they are a series of bombshells” on how Jesus wants believers in Him to act. Barclay notes these debated sermons use different verbiage than a typical person of those days would talk.

Some scholars do not include verses 37 and 38 in their content analysis. This paper includes these verses to complete the flow and thought of this section. While many verses in the Bible discuss principles of love and loving one’s enemies, this paper points men and women to Jesus’ way to love both neighbors and enemies.

The general population shows an interest in the topics of love, hate, and enemies. It is evident because of what appears in grocery stores. Most checkout lines are filled with publications enticing readers to understand why they hate each other, such as

  • “My Neighbor, My Enemy” (New York Time­s)
  • “Hate in America” (Time Magazine)
  • “It’s a Thin Line between Love and Hate” (Psychology Today)
  • “And They Will Know We are Christians by our Hate” (The Christian Post)
  • “The Secret to Loving Your Enemies” (Today’s Christian Women)

When people read the Bible addressing love, hate, and enemies, understanding the Christian definition of certain words will help.

Table 1: Definitions—Luke 26:27-38

Word Definition Bible Verse Reference (NASB) Strong’s Concordance Reference Number
love To care for Luke 6:27,32, 35 25
enemies Adversary, foe, one who dislikes or hates another and seeks to harm another Luke 6: 1, 35 2190
hate Detest Luke 6:1 3404
“do good” [to exhibit] a fine moral character Luke 6:1, 33 2573
reward Recompense for good or evil, most often it suggests a benefit or favorable compensation 35 3635

As one delves into the so-called Golden Rule verses, it is helpful to fully understand what Luke 6:27-28 is saying as they are imperative in grasping verses 29-38, which follow. In Luke 6:27-28, there are four instructions for believers to follow:

  • Love your enemies,
  • Be good to those who hate you,
  • Bless those who curse you, and
  • Pray for those who mistreat you.

There has been debate on the actual meaning of what “love one’s enemy” means. The word here means the agape kind of love, distinguishing it from passionate love and love for only those who love them back! William Barclay describes this kind of love as “an active feeling of benevolence toward the other person; it means that no matter what that person does to us we will never allow ourselves to desire anything but his highest good, and we will deliberately and of set purpose go out of our way to be good and kind to him.” Enemies today are viewed as people who want to hurt or betray—they may even gossip or tell lies about us, still as believers, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, one can trust in God’s ability for mankind to love with this agape kind of love. Moving beyond these two verses, there are two more Biblical verses that continue to train Christians on how to act.

People are innately inclined to hate their enemies because of their sinful nature, which originated in the story of Adam and Eve. Despite this, Jesus continues to give more instructions on how to treat enemies in Luke 6:29-30. Jesus tells us that “whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek, and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.” Jesus does not want us to pick and choose who we are to love even if there is physical violence—in this case, the turning the other cheek reference. Leon Morris says that cheek is siagon, which means, “a punch to the side of the jaw rather than a light slap on the face.”As one would expect, most people would want to fight back, but Jesus tells believers to turn the other cheek and accept the same treatment again. Warren Wiersbe says it is our inner disposition that the glory of God is seeking.

Regarding accepting a strike from an enemy, Wiersbe says, “we must have the wisdom to know when to turn the other cheek and when to claim our right. Christian love must exercise discernment.” In this illustration and in the example where Jesus tells of not withholding one’s shirt if it is taken away, verse 30 says to give to everyone who asks and not demand it back. The ethics behind these two verses revolve around the ability to do good—TO EVERYONE!

It is a complex concept to understand that we are to love everyone and give to everyone regardless of how one feels. But, in Luke 31, Jesus tells us that people are to treat others the way they want to be treated. But, how can hurt brothers and sisters treat others with love and kindness? It is impossible without the Holy Spirit helping Christians to show Christ’s humility.

Robert H. Gundry shares how Jesus mingled and socialized with all sorts of people. As in ancient times, people today mingle and socialize with all types of people. Wherever Christians are, and whatever sort of people they encounter, Jesus tells us to treat each other with the same kind of treatment one wishes to receive themselves. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” Regarding a more inwardly way to act, Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” It takes God’s Holy Spirit to love the way Jesus did.

Jesus did not want or demand credit for his works; He followed the Lord’s path established for him in humility and with integrity. In Luke 6:32-4, one question is asked in all three verses. Jesus asks, “What credit is that to you?”

Many serve to obtain accolades for their service to the Lord. Christ is more concerned with the character of our heart than He is that people receive congratulations, fist bumps, or flattery for service. These accolades are in the following verses.

And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend [with interest] to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount (Luke 6:32-4).

First, it does not take much to love a mother, father, son, or daughter. Second, it does not take much to love those who love us. And last, it does not take much to lend to those who will pay us back. But, from Jesus’ perspective, it is better to love one’s neighbor, love those who hate, and help others without knowing if they will pay back a loan or not. If one only does their works and service to be seen, they are doing nothing more than a sinner would do. David Guzik says, “Though we will have enemies, yet we are to respond to them in love, trusting that God will protect our cause and destroy are enemies in the best way possible, by transforming them into our friends.”

As Luke 6 progresses, Luke tells us in verses 35 and 36 that believers are to love enemies and be merciful toward them. Regarding loving neighbors, much is written about the ways to resolve hate. They are:

  • Use conflict resolution techniques
  • Kill someone with kindness
  • Come to a healthy comprise, and
  • Create boundaries between each other.

The Bible wants people to initiate love towards enemies, first with a clean heart, before the four actions afore-mentioned above. In Psalm 51:10, King David addresses God desiring a clean heart. Believers in Christ should start by cleansing themselves as David did in the referenced psalm. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” After loving someone with a clean heart, believers are better equipped to show mercy to others. Author Andrew Herbert mentions one can extend mercy to others only when they have received sympathy, compassion, and forgiveness themselves, but “we do not have what it takes, but Jesus does, so we come to Him in brokenness and humility, hungering to be filled with what only He can give.”

Not judging and giving to others conclude this pericope in Luke 6:37-38. The Bible is ready to address judging others. Jesus clarifies in verse 37 what believers will gain. Christians should not judge or condemn others, believing that when they follow His instructions, they will gain. Leon Morris says the verse is not clear on whether it means gain in this present judgment or the future judgment of God or both. He states, “If we are harsh with our judgments on other people we generally find that they return the compliment and we ourselves are widely rewarded.”

Application

When Christ and His Holy Spirit work significantly to where individuals understand the need to forgive and love our enemies, the fruit of the spirit of love becomes evident by giving of oneself. Because the Lord has given of Himself, those who have turned their life over to Christ through the forgiveness of sin and repentance can love their enemies; thus, being a reflection of Jesus Christ.

Luke 6:27 tells believers to love enemies. The Bible commands individuals to do that, but it is not easy. As ambassadors of the Lord, the desire to love like Jesus is there, but when one is offended, hurt, gossiped about, and betrayed, the human heart does not think of kindness as one’s first choice of action. Learning to love and not to hate is a process. Sometimes it is slow and lengthy, but the process to become more as Christ must commence in obedience to the Lord’s command. When facing hate, the following points will help people from all age groups to acknowledge their hate and move towards love.

  • Pray with passion.
  • Pray for the offender. Pray for yourself.
  • Pray to be a forgiving person.
  • Repent if needed.
  • Pray for an attitude change.
  • Trust deeply in God for a resolution.
  • Trust the Holy Spirit for an understanding of the incident or developing angst.
  • Put oneself in the offender’s shoes and seek perspective.
  • Ask God to address any issues springing from both parties.
  • Plead for forgiveness. Sometimes this means addressing the person or organization involved. Sometimes not.
  • Read Bible verses on love, hate, bitterness, cruelty, offenses, and behavior of believers.
  • Recognize that God may be using this incident for good.
  • Understanding making boundaries or moving on might be His solution.
  • Keep praying with passion.

Conclusion

Returning to the 2018 accident in Dallas, Texas, where Amber Guyger fatally killed Botham Jean, an innocent man, as he sat in his apartment eating ice cream. Guyger was sentenced to a ten-year sentence. On the witness stand during sentencing, Brandt Jean, the victim’s eighteen-year-old brother, turned to Guyger, and said, “I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” Botham’s family had every right to hate Guyger. However, in an act of kindness, the victim’s brother Brandt continued to speak directly to Guyger. He said, ‘I love you like anyone else,’ and later hugged her in the courtroom before being led to her ten-year prison sentence by the bailiff. That is loving one’s enemy in action! The conclusion reached in Luke 6:27-38 is that God commands believers to love one’s enemies, and by following and obeying God’s Biblical instructions, it is possible to live in a godly fashion toward foes.

God Bless,

 

Dear Lord, Please let us rest in Your peace indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Let us look at all people with love and acceptance, even those who have hurt us terribly. Pour Your holy power upon us to live a life of forgiveness, acceptance, and reconciliation–no matter what it might be. You love us. You hear our prayers and cries. You want to help us through all the attitudes and difficulties we face. I call upon You to touch my heart. Give me a heart of love. Let my soul be like Your soul. Transform me into Your image. In Christ, I pray.

This article may not be reproduced except for written permission from the author. For the full annotated paper and bibliography, please contact me through the comment section of this article. [This paper was written for a college, academic, research class by Patti Greene.]

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About the author

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Patti Greene

Patti Greene is the author of three outstanding devotional prayer journals, Answer Me, Anchor Me, and Awaken Me and a book titled "Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending." Patti earned a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and pursued graduate studies in religious education and library science spending two years as a second-grade teacher. After spending 12 years as a stay-at-home mom, Greene spent 18 more years as a school librarian in St. Louis, Missouri and Houston, Texas. When not writing books or blogs, Greene spends her time caregiving, reading, researching, and hanging out with her family and friends. Patti and her husband have three adult children and five grandchildren. Visit her blog at GreenePastures.org.

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