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THE GIFT OF LIKE
Jesus’ one command to us, his followers, is to love our enemies.
Thank God he didn’t command us to like them.
That Jesus commanded us to love rather than to like is a very important distinction.
You can love someone without liking them. In other words, you don’t have to like someone to keep Jesus’ command to love them.
The world today is premised on likes. We see that now especially in social media, but it pervades every aspect of the world. Likes are in fact the realm of the world and are based on conformism to a specific ideal. They are also heavily weighted and guided by fleeting and superficial “feels”.
Love, on the other hand, can be surprisingly devoid of feelings. You don’t need to feel love in order to do love. Jesus taught us that loving is less a feeling and more a doing – you love your enemies not by liking them, but by praying for them and doing good to them, even as they curse you.
I have found it helpful, over the years, to remind myself of the distinction between liking and loving. It’s been particularly helpful over the last two years, when I’ve been stigmatized and exiled from society not for something I did, but for something I wouldn’t do (cover my face and inject drugs). I despise many of the values that now prevail in Western society. I despise and reject those values, but I don’t despise and reject the people who hold them. I don’t particularly like those people and I wouldn’t want to spend time with them (unless they, on their own volition, wanted to spend time with me), but I don’t despise them. The command is to love them, regardless of my personal feelings towards them.
Even so, I would never tell them that I love them according to Jesus’ command and that I’m praying for them. My words would be unwelcome. If they outright asked for my prayers, I would unhesitatingly tell them that they have them. But otherwise, I pray for them in secret, like Jesus taught us to do.
Knowing the difference between liking and loving and using that knowledge as the basis for how we interact with the world is crucial to living in the Kingdom. We cannot survive as born-again believers – or even call ourselves Christian – unless we love our enemies. But at the same time, we cannot in most cases love our enemies unless we also understand that we don’t have to like them.
Jesus’ command was not to like but to love. Again, it’s a COMMAND, not a suggestion. And like the other Ten Commandments, it has no asterisks after it, meaning there are no exceptions to the rule. No matter what people say, no matter what they believe or how they live their lives, no matter what side of the military or political or social battle they fight on, and no matter how they treat you or those you actually do like – you are commanded to love them, which means you are commanded to pray for them and do good to them. And because they will likely reject whatever good you would do to them, you need to do your loving of them in secret, without their knowledge and without fanfare.
As I mentioned at the outset, I thank God that I only have to love my enemies rather than to like them. But I find that the more I pray for and bless them, the softer my feelings grow towards them (although I would never show those feelings to them, because they would be unwelcome). The softening of my feelings is the presence of God’s Holy Spirit working through my obedience to God. The Spirit doesn’t work through fake like or love, only through genuine submission of the will.
Like Jesus, I submit to no-one but to God. God alone has my heart, and I willingly give him my will as well. And also like Jesus, I don’t have to give God my heart or my will – I’m not forced to do it; no-one’s forcing me: it’s something I choose to do. I have the capacity to do it and I choose to do it. There is no forcing going on.
When we do that, when we willingly put everything we have and everything we are into God’s hands, he can work through us. He can’t (that is to say, he won’t) work through us if we fake it; he’ll only work through us if we’re genuine in our submission to him.
Submitting to God means keeping his Commandments.
Loving our enemies is a choice we make; coming to like them is a gift from God.
A HIGHER STANDARD
As born-again believers, we’re held to a higher standard.
We can’t compare our thoughts and actions with those of people who are in the world. We need to compare our thoughts and actions with those of Jesus. How do we know Jesus’ thoughts and actions? We can read about them in the Gospel. That’s why we continually need to learn from the Gospel, so we’ll know the right way to act and and the right way to direct our thoughts in any given situation, especially in emergencies.
Note that being held to a higher standard doesn’t mean we hold ourselves to be better than those who are held to a lower standard. In no way does being held to a higher standard mean that we’re somehow “better” or that God loves us more. It just means that God expects more from us, in the same way that parents expect more from their eldest than from the baby of the family.
We need to remember this when we feel drawn – tempted – into issues that are affecting the world, such as war or mass protests. We need to look to Jesus for guidance in these issues, not to the media or the government. The guidance provided by Jesus is much different than that provided by the media or government. In most cases, it’s the opposite.
We also need to remember that the Commandments have no asterisks next to them denoting exceptions to the rule, and that they haven’t changed in meaning or content since they were first given to Moses thousands of years ago. The guidance provided by the Ten Commandments remains valid to this day. So we continually need to read and learn from those, too, and to remind ourselves of them whenever temptation comes our way.
War and the loyalties demanded by war are temptations.
We are to love our neighbours and our enemies without exception. There is no exception to that rule. We love and pray for our neighbours and our enemies equally and without distinction. That is our job as born-again believers. In John’s vision of the Kingdom in the book of Revelation, people of all nations and races and tongues stand before and serve God TOGETHER as one.
We are not the world.
We are the Kingdom.
And the Kingdom is ruled by different laws than the world.
Please remember that in the days and weeks to come.
Love all, without distinction.
That is our Commandment.
27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
ENEMIES AND FRIENDS
Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies, and as born-again followers of Jesus, we do what he tells us to do: We love our enemies.
We pray for them, bless them, and do good to them, regardless of what they do to us.
But in loving our enemies, we must also stay aware that they are our enemies. They are not our friends. Enemies can’t and shouldn’t be trusted. Enemies can’t and shouldn’t be entrusted with anything of value. They are enemies.
Yes, we can spend time with them and interact with them, showing them love, but all the while we should still remain aware that they are our enemies. We need constantly to be on our guard.
If, on the other hand, our enemies turn and become followers of Jesus, as witnessed by genuine spiritual rebirth, then they’ve become our friends. We were once enemies of Jesus, but when we were born-again, we became his friends. We need to extend the same friendship to our enemies who turn. We need to test them first to see if they are genuinely turned (as Paul was tested by the disciples), but if we find them to be so, then we need to embrace them as friends the way Jesus has embraced us. No ifs, ands, or buts.
At the same time, don’t be fooled. Many people claim to turn to Jesus, only to be found later to have turned to something other than Jesus, some other Jesus-like gospel that is not Jesus. Most of these people take on leadership positions in the worldly denominational church. They are the gatekeepers Jesus describes as not entering the Kingdom and preventing others from entering, as fishing for converts only to make them more fit for hell than they are themselves. During the time of Jesus’ ministry, the leadership of the synagogues and temple was like this. Today, the leadership of all denominational churches is like this. No exceptions.
When you’re a born-again believer, your enemies – both seen and unseen – are all around you all the time. Your friends – both seen and unseen – are also all around you, and they’re closer to you than your enemies, even if they’re physically far away, and even if you don’t know who they are. They form a spiritual force field around you that cannot be breached. Think of David (when he was on the run from Saul) and his band of outcasts who protected him with their lives. In this case, we are all David while at the same time being all his outcasts. We are both David and those who protected him. However, unlike David and his men, we don’t use physical weapons to protect each other; we use spiritual ones. We pray for each other, just as we pray for our enemies. Our prayers contribute to our protection, because our prayers give God permission to intervene supernaturally over and above what he would normally do.
The more we pray and bless others, whether friend or foe, the more we receive prayers and are blessed in return. It’s a beautiful thing. Never be swayed by those who try to get you to hate anyone for any reason, or you will lose your blessings. We love and bless and pray for our enemies, we love and bless and pray for our friends. This is how we aim to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect, as Jesus advised us to be. Don’t let anyone persuade you to be otherwise.
BLESS YOUR CHALLENGES, DON’T CURSE THEM
We live in an age that values convenience and instant gratification.
But life doesn’t work that way. Life isn’t convenient and instant: It’s full of challenges.
The most successful people in life, whether in the world or in the Kingdom, bless their challenges rather than curse them. They see challenges not as barriers but as opportunities to make themselves better.
Jesus was famous for embracing challenges, including his enemies. He never shied away from them, but always faced them head-on, guided and strengthened by God. We are to follow Jesus in everything we do, so if he embraced and blessed challenges, so should we.
All too often, our default (as modeled to us by the world) is to complain about challenges and barriers. Sometimes we complain to God, but mostly we complain to the world. We complain that things are too difficult. We complain that someone else has an unfair advantage by virtue of their sex or skin color or language or heritage. We complain about the transit system. We complain about bad drivers. We complain about the produce selection. We complain about the weather. We complain about prices going up and our income going down. We complain about our health. We complain about our relationships. In fact, we’re so good at complaining about our challenges, we’ll even complain on behalf of other people for challenges that don’t affect us and are in fact none of our business – but heck, if it’s a challenge, it needs to be cursed and complained about.
We need to put that complaining mindset behind us as a relic that no longer has a place in our lives. We’re in the Kingdom, not the world, and Jesus showed us that challenges and barriers are opportunities to better ourselves, and so should be embraced, not cursed. That is the basis for his teaching on loving our enemies. We don’t curse those who hate us or challenge us; we love and bless them, and we embrace them even as we embrace the challenges they present to us.
Of course, like everything else in our lives, we’re not going to be able to bless and embrace our challenges without God’s help. Also (and this is important, so pay attention here), we’re not always going to succeed at overcoming our challenges. Sometimes – even after asking God’s help – we’re going to fail, because we need to fail occasionally.
That’s how we learn best and stay humble. Failure is as important to our progress in the Kingdom as success is, and like challenges (and enemies), failure should be embraced, not shunned and complained about.
Considering the above, I would like to challenge you right here and right now to make a list (even just a mental one) of all the things that you see as dragging you down or as being barriers to your success. Then I’d like to challenge you to take that list and turn it inside out, so that the challenges and curses become opportunities and blessings, so that instead of complaining about your challenges, you use them as a starting point and an opportunity to make yourself better.
Remember – you don’t overcome evil by cursing; you overcome evil by blessing. Jesus taught us that.
Now let’s put it into action.
Tell me – will you still worship God when you can’t get into restaurants and cinemas?
Will you still worship God when you can’t fly or take a train or even get on a bus?
How about when you can’t get into grocery stores? Will you still worship God then?
Because those days are coming, when access will be denied. For some, those days are already here.
Will you still worship God when you lose your job or get court martialed or a dishonorable discharge?
How about when you lose your home and your bank account is frozen and you have no money? How about when you can’t get on the Internet anymore and your driver’s license is suspended?
What will happen to your worship when you’re being rounded up for incarceration in a containment camp? Will you still worship God then?
Because those days are coming, too, for some sooner than others.
We need to worship God no matter what’s going on in our lives and no matter what the world throws at us. Worshiping God doesn’t mean going into a certain building and saying certain things. We can worship God wherever we are and under whatever circumstances we find ourselves. In fact, the worse the circumstances, the more we need to worship and the more we need to thank God.
LOVE FOR OUR ENEMIES AND PRAISE AND THANKFULNESS TO GOD IS OUR WORSHIP, as born-again believers, and it shouldn’t stop just because we can no longer get into restaurants or are being hunted down like animals. The worse the times, the more fervent the faith must be; the worse we’re treated, the more we must love in return.
So tell me – will you be worshiping God just in the good times or also in the bad?
A REMINDER TO KEEP THE 11TH COMMANDMENT
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
Be very, very, very careful how you apply this scripture.
Jesus was kind to the unkind and even to the condemned.
Think of how kind he was to Judas Iscariot, even knowing all along that Judas would betray him and was therefore condemned for all eternity.
And think that he let Judas kiss him, even knowing that the kiss was a signal to arrest him.
Most people are messed up these days, and we know from scripture that most are condemned, having chosen the broad way. But we, as born-again believers, are still to love these people and be kind to them. Jesus’ directive to love and bless our enemies and to pray for them has the same weight as a Commandment, meaning that it’s non-negotiable.
Non-negotiable means there are no exceptions and no exemptions. It has to be done.
Let me be brutally frank: being unkind to people solely because they are unkind to you or are your spiritual enemy is a sin. Violating any of the Commandments is a sin, and being kind to the unkind has the same weight as a Commandment. If you purposely and persistently sin and refuse to repent, you will lose your grace and join those on the broad way.
Don’t do that.
You can love your enemies and be kind to them from a distance. You can keep your distance from them, if that’s what you prefer and if that’s how God guides you. But you still need be kind to them according to Jesus’ directive, which he told us outright was another Commandment.
Your kindness may help diffuse a situation they’re going through. Your kindness may be the only kindness they’ve been shown in a long time. Your kindness may even inspire them to be kind to someone else.
Ultimately, your kindness may keep them from a worse eternal condemnation. This is the purpose of being kind to the unkind, of loving your enemies.
The spiritual directive to be kind in the face of unkindness is the highest calling of a born-again believer. It is ultimately what will separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats.
When your enemy hungers, feed him.
When he thirsts, give him something to drink.
When he is naked, clothe him.
When he curses you, bless him.
You know the drill.
Being kind to the unkind is a non-negotiable Commandment and probably the most difficult of all to keep.
But keep it you must.
As with everything, ask God for help with this.
You cannot be kind to the unkind on your own steam.
Ask God for help.
And if you mess up, don’t beat yourself up about it. Make your amends, and do better next time.
THE HARDEST THING IN THE WORLD TO DO
When we were little kids, we learned simple songs. The songs had at most a dozen notes in an easy-to-reach range, a simple and catchy tune, and lyrics that didn’t always make sense but were easy to remember. Think “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. We sang these songs at daycare or at school or with our mother at home. Sometimes we’d sing them quietly to ourselves if we were sad or scared, as a way to recall happier times and comfort ourselves. They were as much a part of our lives as play time, snack time, and bedtime. They became part of us and still are part of us today.
I mention these childhood songs because, as born-again believers, we need to learn a new song. We’re old enough now to choose the notes ourselves, but the lyrics should go like this: (more…)
THE PAIN YOU FEEL IS THE PAIN YOU’VE EARNED
In the instant before I was born again, during what I now call “the moment outside of time”, God imprinted on my soul this one simple truth: The pain you feel is the pain you’ve earned. It was reminder of the “cause and effect” principle that I’d ignored or pretended didn’t exist up to that point in my earthly life, but its impression on me was indelible from then onward. Now, whenever things go a bit south in my life, I immediately remind myself: “The pain you feel is the pain you’ve earned”, and I do whatever is necessary to bring my thinking and doing back in line with God’s will.
Most Christian pastors side-step the principle of cause and effect when teaching their flock, instead referring to God as “a Great Mystery” who works in ways that we cannot possibly fathom. Granted, we can’t know God’s mind perfectly (we just don’t have that capability in our current form), but we can very definitely know the principles he has established for us to live by (more…)
WHY LOVE YOUR ENEMIES?
What does it mean to “love your enemies”? Jesus was very specific about what this “love” entailed – he said PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMIES and wish blessings on them. He said if they’re hungry, feed them; if they’re cold, clothe them. He said to choose to forgive them. He was very clear on what he meant by “love”.
He also called these people our “enemies”.
Think about that.
You can pray for someone, wish blessings on them, choose to forgive them, feed and clothe them, and still mostly steer clear of them. The two positions (loving them and staying away from them) are not mutually exclusive.
You don’t hang out with your enemies. Why on Earth would you want to do something as stupid as that?
God gave us a brain and common sense for one reason and one reason only: To use them.
Loving your enemies does not mean hanging out with them or letting them walk all over you or dictate to you. Jesus never said to hang out with your enemies and let them walk all over you and dictate to you. They’re your enemies. Jesus said to love them, and then explained what he meant by “love”.
If you’re still confused by what “love your enemies” means, look at Jesus. What did he do? He had enemies aplenty, and the more he preached, the more enemies he had. He did not go where he was not welcome (i.e., enemy territory), but when he did, he didn’t mince his words or try to ingratiate himself. He called a spade a spade. Followers of Jesus should take their cue from Jesus.
Scripture is always very clear; it’s people who don’t read scripture and then try to preach it who make it unclear.
But what is the point of loving our enemies? What possible good does it do them? What possible good does it do us?
The truth of the matter is – we are to love our enemies for OUR sake, not for theirs. Our loving them (through prayer and blessings and forgiveness and not trash-talking them behind their back) aids our soul, not theirs. We unburden ourselves of sin when we choose to forgive. We bless ourselves when we bless others. Jesus famous cry to love our enemies was an instruction to us on how to heal spiritually and renew our spiritual healing every day through our free-will choice to forgive and bless. Only by forgiving and blessing are we filled with God’s holy spirit, as God’s spirit cannot and will not live in a place that harbors hate and unforgiveness.
Loving your enemies doesn’t mean you let your enemies constantly abuse you; loving your enemies means keeping your distance from them (THEY’RE YOUR ENEMIES, AFTER ALL –WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO BE AROUND THEM????) while all the while praying blessings on them.
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if your enemy is cold, clothe him: but otherwise, steer clear of him.
You love your enemies for your sake, not for theirs.
Again – YOU LOVE YOUR ENEMIES FOR YOUR SAKE, NOT FOR THEIRS.
That is how you stay holy (that is, filled with God’s spirit), and staying holy is how you get home.
Acts of terror, regardless of who perpetrates them, all have the same final outcome: the reduction of freedom. This means less freedom of movement, less freedom of association, less freedom of speech, less freedom of the press, and so on. The initial gut-level response to terror is almost always fear and the desire for revenge, but the long-term fall-out is always – ALWAYS – less freedom. Think of how the Patriot Act has stripped Americans and their allies of freedom since 9/11. From this, we can assume that all acts of terror have as their ultimate aim the reduction and curtailment of freedom.
Likewise, from this, we can assume that whoever is ultimately behind all acts of terror is someone who wants to take away our freedom and thereby control us.
God gave every one of us free will and has never asked for it back. Paul said that all things are possible, but not all things are good. That’s why God engraved his laws on our hearts and set the Ten Commandments in stone, so that we would always be able to discern the good within the possible, regardless of how beguiling the temptation was to do bad. But God still permits us to do bad, if that’s what we choose to do. He does not intervene in our freedom either to do good or to do bad, but he does try his hardest to persuade us to choose the good.
That is free will.
Given this reality, it must therefore be someone who is opposed to God who is behind terrorist acts. Anyone who wants to forcefully remove or curtail the freedom of others is not mirroring God’s way and is not acting as God’s ally. In other words, they do not respect our God-given free will. We know, from Jesus, that the world is under Satan. So whoever is working behind the scenes to perpetrate terrorist acts with the ultimate aim of controlling the population is working for Satan, as are all those who willingly agree to have their freedoms curtailed in direct response to terrorism.
The New Testament mentions “the synagogue of Satan” a few times. This is in reference to “Jews who call themselves Jews but are in fact not”. Muslims call the United States “the great Satan”. These references to Satan point to power strongholds in the world at any given time. The truth is that all people, regardless of where they live or what religion they espouse, are under Satan unless they are born-again followers of Jesus. Born-agains are in God’s kingdom on Earth and have pledged their allegiance to God. Those who have not done so are defacto worshippers of Satan and thus automatically fall under Satan’s jurisdiction.
So what does this mean for acts of terrorism like the one unleashed on Paris on Friday the thirteenth of November, 2015? It means that Satan is behind these acts, regardless of who gets the finger pointed at them. It means more freedom will be forcefully removed and also willingly forfeited. It means that the world on Saturday the fourteenth of November, 2015, is less free than it was the day before. It also means Satan’s control of the world is expanding.
Satan goes by many names and wears many hats. His favourite disguise is The Invisible Man because he fancies himself to be like God. He and his minions slip in and out of people’s minds, beguiling them to act in ways that they know in their heart is wrong. Sadly, most people give into them.
The only way to win people back from Satan is to do as Jesus told us to do: love our enemies. We need to pray for the human perpetrators of terrorism as much as we pray for those who suffer from their acts. We need to pray, not curse them. If we find them, we need to imprison them, not torture or kill them. We need to give them time to repent of their acts, in the same way as God gives us time. We do not repay an eye for an eye, but nor do we just let them get away with their crime. Jesus says not to overcome evil with evil but to overcome evil with good. He also says that praying for our enemies is like pouring hot coals on their heads. So pour away, my friends. Pour away!
It may be, from all the prayers pouring out of us, that even one evil-doer may some day turn, just as I did and just as you did.
This is how we win people back from Satan and in so doing make the world safer and freer.