How Does Love Conquer?

By Ryan Dawson 

We live in a day filled with polarization and division, where people are often more passionate about what they are “against” than what they are “for”.   Jeremy spoke about this tribalism this past Sunday in his message Don’t Travel Alone (make sure you catch it – it was a good one!)  Tribalism flows from the hyper individualism built into our cultural framework here in the West.  We are taught by our culture that we can’t love people unless we agree with them, and a failure to embrace the values and beliefs of others is analogous to operating with discrimination and hate.  But is this true or is there another way?  

Jesus teaches us a very different way.  

Matthew 5:43-48.  “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ 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.”  

Jesus is pushing us way beyond tribalism and even tolerance.  He is calling us to radically love those we view as enemies, and those who see us as enemies.  Jesus is commanding us to love those we disagree with and even those who hurt us and persecute us.  This is a hard teaching and a revolutionary teaching that cannot take root in our hearts apart from the Spirit of God planting it there.  

The German pastor, spy, and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, sheds light on this teaching of Jesus when he writes:  

How does love conquer?  By asking not how the enemy treats love but only how Jesus treated it.  The love for our enemies takes us along the way of the cross and into the community with the crucified.  The more we are driven along this road, the more certain is the victory of love over the enemy’s hatred.  For then it is not the disciple’s own love, but the love of Jesus Christ alone, who for the sake of his enemies went to the cross and prayed for them as he hung there.  In the face of the cross the disciples realized that they too were his enemies and that he had overcome them by his love.  It is this that opens the disciples’ eyes and enables them to see their enemy as a brother or sister.  They know that they owe their very life to One who, though he was their enemy, accepted them, who made them his neighbours, and drew them into community with himself.  The disciples can now perceive that even their enemies are the object of God’s love, and that they stand like themselves beneath the cross of Christ.

You are called to love your enemies – not with your love, but with the love of Christ born in your heart.  God loved you and me when we were His enemies, and He gave His life for us.  It is impossible to truly love our enemies apart from embracing the Gospel.  This is the only way to love as God loves us.  We love because He first loved us.  

Do you have any enemies, or have you ever had an enemy?  Is there someone in your life who has hurt you in some way?  Do you struggle to love someone you disagree with and to forgive those who have hurt you?   We all wrestle with these realities, and we need to take seriously the words of Jesus.  

When we start to see people, whom we dislike and disagree with, as people for whom Christ died, it helps us move beyond our fear and hurt to love and forgiveness.  We are then gripped by the fact that we share so much in common with our “enemies” – which is the desperate need for the grace of Jesus Christ.  So, let’s rest in this grace and extend this grace, so love conquers all!  

For Christ and His Kingdom, Ryan

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