(An article anticipating ordinary life circumstances.)
Messiah Yeshua/Jesus taught, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43-45; cf. Lev. 19:18).
Messiah is referencing, not the Torah, but a folk teaching informed by human wisdom and experience. Yeshua, however, corrects this: “you have heard … but I tell you …”
Is it really so easy? Simply, that depends; but many of us would say, no, it’s not so simple.
As we approach all people, we need to remember that they too, no matter our differences with them, are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). We must approach them in faith, remembering the fallen nature of humanity, and that, at times, struggles we have with others may be used by the Lord to humble us, drawing us closer to Him.
Yeshua, further in Matthew 5:45, references what is called common grace, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Common grace provides for, and safeguards life. Here we find how we can begin to “love your enemies.”
“If you find your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you must surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of the one that hates you lying down under its burden, do not leave it. Rather, you are to release it with him” (Ex. 23:4-5).
The above is the biblical origin of “love your enemies.” Returning the lost animal to your enemy would likely preserve his life and that of his family; and keep them from potentially slipping into poverty. Helping him to unburden his animal brings two separated, oppositional parties together.
The Lord does not just tell us to “love your enemies because I said so!” He directs us to see their humanity, their life, and their value.
Yeshua references the provision and care of the Father to the evil and the good, the righteous and the unrighteous: safeguarding life. The Torah earlier instructs us to see them, our enemy or the one who hates us, in their fragility. As Proverbs 24:17 says, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”
The act of love, by common grace described above, is the act of building a bridge, a גֶּשֶׁר/gesher in Hebrew, in faith strong enough to hold you and your enemy, the proverbial bridge over troubled waters.
In faith, He is the bridge. He is strong enough. His Word is able. Can you see Him in the life of your enemy, or those hating you?
It may not be an ox or a donkey that necessitates the interaction today, but any number of circumstances, tragic or simply inconvenient, may be the mitigating factor that brings you together.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Be well. Shalom.