OK, folks, maybe you better sit down because I’m about to disagree with Jesus. (Not that I’m full of myself or anything; after all, He’s just a human being like me — except for that part about Him also being God.)
Anyway, I was thinking of Jesus saying that it’s not good enough to love your friends, even the pagans do that, the real trick, the hard part, is to love your enemies.
But then I thought, actually, it’s pretty easy to love your enemies because you don’t expect them to love you back. So you can feel really good about yourself, you can really get into congratulating yourself, that you are following Jesus and loving your enemy, praying for your enemy, not wishing evil on your enemy.
The hard part is loving those whom you expect to love you, but they don’t. The hard part is to not keep questioning what you did wrong, what they did wrong, how can they treat you so badly, think of you so poorly. The hard part is to stop those thoughts, stop fantasies of rejecting them right back or rubbing in how much they hurt you. The hard part is to simply go on loving, to turn every thought about them into a prayer of love and thanksgiving for loving them.
So I decided to look up the exact verse (since I was pretty sure my version was my usual loose paraphrase). Matthew, in chapter 5 writes, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
And Luke, in chapter 6, writes, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
But I went back to Matthew, and there it was, just a couple of verses later in chapter 5: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
It turns out I wasn’t disagreeing with Jesus, just with the narrow meaning of that word “enemies” — really He was talking about just what I am talking about: loving those who don’t love you back (even when you think they should).