“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 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. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and pray for the people who persecute us. One way in which we can show love to our enemies is to share the Gospel with them. Yet in sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus, we may be inclined to draw the line when it comes to people with whom we have an issue, people who are openly hostile towards us, or people who we think may be too far gone. This may be especially true when it comes to sharing the Gospel with people who are openly hostile to us and to our faith. We may think, “I’ll just stick to sharing my faith with people who are nice to me, or people who are friends of mine. Thank you very much!” But, as Jesus pointed out, anyone can love someone who loves them back, anyone can be nice to a friend. As followers of Christ, we are called to a higher standard than that. We are called to God’s standard.
John 3:16 says that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son to die for them. It doesn’t say God so loved some people. He loves ALL people! And all people is inclusive of our enemies. Jesus died for them just as He died for us. They deserve to hear the Gospel just as much as our friends, our families, and anyone else whom we like. And because we who have received the gift of salvation are called to spread the Gospel across the street and around the world, we are called to spread that Gospel even to our enemies, even to those who hate us or persecute us. We are called to have the same heart towards them as Jesus has. As followers of Jesus, we want to be more like Jesus, and yet we struggle with this.
In the book of Acts, we see someone who experiences a similar struggle, a man named Ananias. Saul, a pharisee whose mission was to do away with all of those who followed Jesus, was on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers there. His mission was interrupted by an encounter with Jesus that knocked him off his horse and left him blind. He was told by Jesus to go to the city and wait for further instructions. And that’s where Ananias comes in. Ananias was a believer who lived in Damascus. In a vision, the Lord told him to get up and go to Saul. Now, Ananias knew who Saul was. He knew that Saul was an enemy to all who called Jesus Lord. And so, he was hesitant. But the Lord told Ananias that Saul was His chosen instrument to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, to kings, and even to the people of Israel. Despite his reservations, in obedience, Ananias went to Saul. He laid hands on Saul, whose sight was restored, and Saul went on to become the apostle Paul, one of the key leaders in the early church and the writer of much of the New Testament.
When it comes to bringing God’s Word to those who hate us, to those with whom we disagree, and to those who we may feel are not deserving of the good news of salvation, we may be hesitant, like Ananias. But, as a follower of Jesus, Ananias chose obedience to God over his own opinions and reservations. May we all be like Ananias and follow the words of 1 John 2:6, which says, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.