Can you love someone you hate?
As a Christian, yes. That’s what some people don’t understand about Christian discipleship. They say that going to church and following Jesus are things you do to escape the hardships of life. We’re scared, so we hide in church.
Yes, God is our hiding place, but if we’re serious about following Jesus, that doesn’t remove us from the uncertainties of the world. In a way, our trust in God puts us right in the middle of the world’s mess. Along the way, you’re going to know someone that’s hard to love.
Some of us have difficulty using the word hate. That’s good. Save it for when it’s the right word to use. Hate what is evil.
Many of us also don’t consider that we have enemies. My impression is we reserve enemies to describe nations and wartime activities. We say, “The enemy evaded us.”
But one definition of enemy is: a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
The word comes from the Latin inimicus, meaning not friend.
And I bet that sounds more like a few people you’ve known. Even in church!
So, what’s our response to those people? Well, first, I’m sure there are moments we wish we could do over. Words we would take back. Comments that were best left unsaid. Sometimes they went overboard and other times you were the button pusher.
If you’re going to love someone you hate, you’re going to need forgiveness. You’re going to need to learn to offer and receive forgiveness. I haven’t met too many people who find that to be first on their to-do list.
It’s almost like it’s kind of a hard thing to do.
Other people may find it best to return hate with hate. The Christian heart cannot be comfortable with that. Blessed are the peacemakers and the ones who turn the other cheek. It’s hard to do that than it is to retaliate.
So, is it possible to love someone you hate, someone who is your enemy? Of course it is. God wouldn’t tell us to do it if it wasn’t.
Knowing that God calls us to love our enemies and that it’s possible to do, there are a few better questions to ask. What makes loving enemies so difficult to do? What makes returning hate so easy to do? What needs to change in our heart, your heart to breed a desire and ability to do such a kingdom task?
Love someone who loves you first and Jesus says big whoop. Love someone who actively opposes you or is hostile to you, that’s abundant life in Jesus’ name.
When you read the book of John, you’ll notice the writer adds bits of commentary along the way. That’s what the parentheses are for. John translates words for us, sets backdrops and offers important details about who did what and why.
Remember when Mary anointed Jesus with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair? It was an act of worship that signaled to Jesus the sign of his imminent death. Judas questioned why the perfume wasn’t sold and used to help the poor. On a surface level, that doesn’t sound like a bad question.
Many of us today ask similar questions.
We know, however, that it wasn’t an inquiry as much as it was a complaint. Jesus told Judas, and maybe the others, “Leave her alone.” That sounds like Jesus is squashing an antagonizer. Before we know what Jesus thought of the question, John already explained to us why it was an issue for Judas. John said, “He (Judas) did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he helped himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6).
Fast forward to John 13 now. Jesus is alone with his disciples and trouble disturbed his spirit. My spirit might feel troubled, too, if I knew one of the people closest to me was about to ruin my life. As a reader of John’s story, by the time Jesus says, “one of you will betray me,” we have a good guess who it might be.
There’s no formalized list of disciples in John. So, we don’t know all their names. We’ve read about a few. At this point, who wouldn’t choose the known thief as the lead suspect?
If you guessed Judas, of course, you’re right.
But notice what John tells about what happened when Jesus announced a betrayer in the midst. “The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.”
Now, it could have been they didn’t know then about Judas and his dealings with the money bag. It’s happened before that pastors or other church leaders cheat entire congregations for years without anyone knowing.
But I also wonder if they weren’t so quick to assume Judas as the betrayer as we are. As much as they knew about him, they knew more about themselves.
That’s a real danger to our walk with God.
We assume the worst of other people and too easily justify ourselves. It’s helpful for me to assume that if I had been around that table with Jesus, I could be the one he spoke of. I can be as proud as Peter. As undecided as Thomas. I can also take too much comfort in being the disciple that Jesus loved.
As much as I may think I have my act together in my heart, I learn there are other big-picture ways I fail Jesus. I fail Jesus.
On this side of Jesus’ resurrection, there’s no shame in that. It’s a reality of our lives. Of course, there’s no glory in sin either. But we are forgiven.
Our church sang this line in worship this weekend: My sin was great. Your grace was greater.
You can’t sing that honestly if you don’t acknowledge the very real possibility you are the one who might betray Jesus.