Read Matthew 5:43-47
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. (NLT)
Most of us are familiar with this sort of teaching. We don’t take revenge on those who hurt us. We don’t confine our love to those who are lovely. Our love is to reflect the love of God who loves all indiscriminately.
And so, quite rightly, we pray that we will love our enemies with the help of God. Otherwise it would be impossible rather than merely difficult. But we may, having resolved to do that challenging thing, have a false expectation. If we love our enemies they will suddenly see the light and embrace us in return. All enmity is abolished and sweetness and light reign.
Not so, at least not always. We might extend genuine love to those who oppose and hurt us and yet they may go on opposing and hurting us. They may reject our love or refuse to even call it love. They may throw our ‘love’ back in our faces.
This is painful, but it ought not stop us seeking to obey this commandment. We obey Jesus not because we will get some immediate payback or because it will make everything turn out for the best. Obedience can be messy and even painful. Then again, the alternative can be worse.