How do you grow in love for your enemy?

Source: De Reformatie. 4 pages. Translated by Bram Vegter.

Do you Love?

Often, it seems a hard-to-reach goal. But there is a beginning…

A Question🔗

Before you read on, I want to ask you to do something.

Think of someone whom you do not get along with. A brother or sister in your own congregation, or in a neighbouring church perhaps. Someone who totally misbehaved. Or a group of brothers or sisters who think differently than you do. There are people who want to change everything, and always seem to be a step ahead of everyone. People who can be very challenging.

Why are they like that? There are also people who often dig in their conservative heels. They are hard to comprehend. What are they thinking? Then there are people who react to everything, want to improve everything, and often write letters. It is very irritating. There are also people who do not want to sing along. Or those who stay away from the worship services when things happen there that they do not appreciate. That can really make you angry!

So, think of one specific person, or a small group of people.

And let yourself be asked this question: do you love him or her? Do you love them?

Do you really, genuinely love them?

Would you dedicate your time to them?

Do you want to bring them along to the great wedding feast?

Will you do everything to make that happen?

Will you be there for them?

It Is About You🔗

Do I have to?

No, it is not a matter that you must do this.

The real question is: are you actually alive?

For if you do not love others, you remain as dead, is what the Holy Spirit writes (1 John 3:14).

Even when you are correct in your criticism. Even when the other person totally misbehaved. Even when others should not be so forceful in pushing their own viewpoints.

This may all be true.

But if you do not love, then you firstly say something about yourself.

Then you remain as dead.

Even when you think you are alive.

The Only Source🔗

The Spirit does not say this without a reason.

It is not about many good works that you would have to do. For if you did all the good works in the world, but you did not have love, then you would still remain as dead (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

No, it is about the only source from which life can originate.

That source is Jesus.

He came to earth as God’s love in person. He went through death. He paved a way that did not exist before. For you and for me.

Now you receive life from him if you accept him.

And not just a life, but his life. He shares with us who he is, especially we receive his Spirit, his disposition, his drive to preserve, his willingness to give up everything forus.

That is what triggers the question: Do you love? In other words, are you connected to the source? Otherwise, you are still as dead, though you may have the nicest viewpoints.

In the same letter of John (1 John 3:14) we read: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.”

Jesus says: this is the second great commandment, beside the first, and everything depends on these. Here it becomes clear whether you live or not.

You Become Different🔗

Perhaps you were thinking of an enemy, and not even a fellow believer. Someone who enjoyed hurting you and not even feels any remorse. That makes it even more difficult.

Forgiveness is hard to come by then.

But the willingness to forgive remains important (as we read in Lord’s Day 51, Book of Praise).

In this the foundational disposition of love is shown.

Like Jesus, who did not forgive everyone, but who in his actions sought the hearts of the people and in the end surrendered himself for his enemies.

From him we learn: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Especially in these circumstances it will become evident that you are children of the Father. Unbelievers will look out especially for their friends and will retaliate. But you have a different lifestyle, a different source. You become full of Me and you will start to act like Me. Not because you must, but because you have become like this. Even in your enemies you will start to see people who have been created by God. People who have a soul, which can be lost, or which also can be saved. Perhaps with your help, or with my help.

You Become a New Person, Now Already🔗

This is like a rebirth, by the way.

For, how were we?

It is characteristic that by nature we tend to think from ourselves. We always have “I” standing up front. We are our own benchmark, and from there we judge the other person.

Even in our faith life we tend to bring along that attitude. We say in our prayer to God what we think of things. Or we say in church how we would like things to go. Or even worse, we say how God finds that things should go, what a worship service should look like, which songs we may sing, etc. Over the years so embarrassingly many personal viewpoints have been defended, sometimes purely subjective, in the Name of God.

And so many times it started with our own “I”. Often in good faith, I presume. But still. Conservatism fails here. People often think about how things have always been. That is the norm, the personal experience. The “I” looms large in this experience.

Progressiveness fails on the other side. There is an eager yearning here that everything needs to be new or improved. The norm is their own feeling. Also here the “I” is present and large.

We can keep each other busy for a long time like this. While the question that everything depends on is: do you love one another?

If the answer is yes, how much are you willing to do for each other?

Are you ready to listen sincerely, open-minded, without any prejudice?

Could you make sure then that the “I” is less dominant in your thinking?

Conservatism and progressiveness each have their attractive sides. And yet, there is a higher road, which we can travel together: to live by one Spirit, who is from all time.

Means and Goal🔗

Does so much truly depend on this? Are my sins not forgiven already, and am I not already saved through the blood of the Lamb? Also when I keep turning myself around in my own presumed right?

This is a serious misconception. I often hear that people speak highly of the forgiveness of their sins, and do not look any further.

That is just as foolish as buying a big present and then putting it away wrapped and all, to never look at it again. When someone asks you, what is in the big box, you say: ” have paid for it, that is enough for me.” No person will understand that. Payment is not a goal after all. It is a means to attain the goal, and so to continue. Whatever you buy, you unpack, you put it somewhere, you start using it, etc.

Well, this is how it is with the forgiveness of your sins as well. You have been bought and paid for. Thanks be to God! But that was not the goal, no, the payment was a means.

The goal is you yourself, with all other saints. Now the Spirit will give you a place, he is going to deploy you, he will make you into a person through whom the love of God is channeled further toward your surroundings. So now everything depends on this. For the Spirit does not work outside of you. The question is: do you sincerely want to receive Jesus (in your heart)? Not only as the One who paid for you, but as he is, namely: life itself? Are you ready to receive who Jesus is? His disposition, his love, his unity with the Father, his commitment for the people and for all of creation?

Whoever says “no”, remains as dead.

Whoever says “yes”, must bury a lot of the old nature. And a lot of old language. All those times that it started with “I”. The new starting point is “we”: Jesus and I, together with all the saints (even though there are so many differences among all people).

Shall we then try it once more in the church? To be there for one another? Not rejecting each other, but drawing each other closer?

Not just thinking anything of each other, but really paying attention to each other?

Not measuring against yourself, but only against Jesus?

And also outside of the church?

Not writing off people, but looking out for them?

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant.” (1 Cor. 13:4).

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