I’ve never been the enemy of New Year’s Resolutions that some people are. My Dad was vocal about his dislike of this tradition: “You say you’re going to do something and then you don’t. If you really cared that much about it, you wouldn’t put it off till January 1.” From his perspective, labeling your desired change as a New Year’s Resolution was an instant death warrant for the resolution, and if you were honest you wouldn’t if make it, so much as do it.
I can’t disagree with his reasoning, but I still make them. I sometimes even remember them throughout the year. My favorite annual resolution is “talk less.” I wish I could measure that one on a per annum basis, but all I can do is measure it on a conversation by conversation basis. I really can’t see that I’ve made any progress at all over the years.
My resolution for 2020 is to Love My Enemies. I picked a hard one. I’m setting my goals high. And of course I’m going to pick it apart first, so that I know just WHO I am resolving to love. Because if there is someone I still don’t have to love, that gives me a break, right?
To figure out just how much of a burden this will be, I go to the source of the idea:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?Jesus, Matthew 5, ESV
Jesus said to “Love” your “Enemies.” So I looked up the greek word that is translated into “enemies,” hoping it would limit the word somehow, you know, to the enemies I actually like a little, or the ones that I agree with but just don’t like to hang out with, or something to make this easier. No help was given. It is pronounced Echthros and as a noun it means “an adversary, enemy, or foe (espec. Satan).” This is the same word that is used in the rest of the New Testament for human or spiritual enemies.
If I am to “love my neighbor as myself” (Matt. 19:19), and “love my enemies,” who is left for me to hate? Who will be the subject of my righteous malevolence? No one. Jesus said so. Love everyone.
This can’t be. There MUST be an outlet for my hatred that is biblically available. So let’s look at the word “Love.” Maybe that is where I will find a “loophole.” After all, there are three types of love. Eros = romantic, Phileo = friendly, and then the king of them all, Agape. Unconditional Love. Anything but that and I’ll have a God-granted license to pick and choose a little.
Ok here we go . . .
In “Love your enemies,” Christ says to Agape our enemies. Love them unconditionally. Without regard to their sinfulness. As God loves us.
In “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Christ says to Agape our neighbor. Love them unconditionally. Without regard to their sinfulness. As God loves us.
In “Love one another,” of John 13, Christ says to Agape our Christian brothers and sisters. Love them unconditionally. Without regard to their sinfulness. As God loves us.
So if I claim Christ as Lord, and say that He and His Spirit lives in me, I must Love. My love is not an endorsement of someone’s sin anymore than His love is an endorsement of my sin. My love is given in spite of that sin, as is His.
My flesh now whines, “Such a heavy burden!” But my Spirit exclaims “Liberation!” I am freed from the demands to hate. THAT is the burden. Ecclesiastical Politics insist that I hate those that speak something other than sound doctrine – that those people are enemies. Governmental Politics demand that I “take a side” and recognize the Socialist or the Republican or the Democrat or the Communist as the enemy, and therefore malign them and hate them. Social Politics maintains that I label myself as a liberal or conservative, or LGBT or Straight, or this religion or that, and than let my contempt for the opposition be known.
But Christ gives me the freedom to love.
I am not bound by the restrictions and dogmas of politics. I can love regardless of people’s lifestyle, sin, or label. It is not a burden. Because Christ lives in me it is now my very nature. I can throw off the weight of hate and accept the liberation of love.
And THAT is my New Year’s Resolution. Also, to laugh more. I think the second will be much easier because of the first. And I assume that now that I am free to love everyone, I am free to laugh with everyone as well. So if you see me hanging out with someone who is a “known sinner” or even an “enemy” of the church, I doing it because I’m a Christian and I enjoy the company of those I love. I’m starting now.