What was Jesus suggesting when He told us to not resist evil people and love our enemies? [Mt 5:38-48] We must be careful to not misinterpret Jesus’ words so to misguide or discourage others. Dissecting the meaning of the word love is not the solution. Jesus’ message of love was radical. Jesus didn’t want His followers to always give “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” as is our natural reaction toward our enemies. This law was meant to protect the weak and ensure justice was fair, but Jesus followers do not necessarily always demand their rights.
Jesus surely is using hyperbolic language in Mt 5:39 to make a point. Jesus says if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, give them the other cheek as well. Jesus would not advise a wife to accept continual abuse by her husband. When robbers invade one’s house, one can take action to protect their family. Nations can defend themselves against the attacks of enemies or seek to protect the rights of others. Loving one’s enemies does not mean always responding passively as Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple.
Jesus obviously did not always retaliate. Jesus’ resurrection proved He was the Son of God, but He did not always go on the attack when accused falsely. Jesus is challenging His listeners to respond differently to one’s enemies when appropriate. Any one can love back those who love you. [v.46] Loving one’s enemies means not returning “like behavior for like behavior.” Loving one’s enemies’ means being prepared to forgive others if they confess their sins, though we may not think or feel they deserve it. Most of us would not be the people we are today if not for God’s radical grace. Keep in mind when a person claims to be a Christ follower yet they are not receptive to the loving confrontation of others, tough love may be necessary. Sin sometimes in the early church was dealt with strongly in hopes of changing minds. [Mt 18: 15-19]
Don’t judge others how they best love their enemies. Let’s encourage each another to follow how God has convicted them to react to their enemies. Christians are responsible to God and not another person’s convictions. There may be a time for justice, tough love, or grace. Your enemy can be anyone mad at you. Road raggers are our enemies. Let’s not respond similarly though they may deserve it. Let’s not seek revenge but leave that in the hands of the Almighty and government. The situation may require we protect ourselves at times but let’s continue to pray and go extra miles with our enemies to possibly inspire them to change. Some may die for a good human being. Jesus died for His enemies to persuade and convince all of His love for us. Let’s follow in Jesus’ footsteps to change our world for the better.