by Caitlin Meadows

When I think of Jesus’ parable of the “good Samaritan”, an image of Larry the Cucumber wearing a boot as a hat comes to mind. But, the parable is much more meaningful than a bunch of vegetable characters throwing shoes and pots back and forth until one decides to be kind to the other. Jesus’ story about the “good Samaritan” is a picture of one who is genuinely loving his neighbor. It is an example of what it looks like to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Why is this parable so significant? Because the Samaritan in the story showed selfless love for a Jew. The Samaritans and Jews were far from what we consider neighbors. They were enemies. But Jesus also taught that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). This is evidence of who we belong to – our Heavenly Father.

But Loving Like This isn’t Natural

Loving our enemies is not in our human-nature. It defies our feelings and logic. To authentically love a person who gives us every reason to resent them takes supernatural enabling. This supernatural enabling is ours for the taking in Christ, yet we don’t readily receive it. At least I don’t. In complete honesty, I often choose to avoid praying for my enemy because I know that in so doing, the Lord will soften my heart to love as He does. This is something my human-nature selfishly, stubbornly does not want to allow.

Hurting Ourselves

When I cling to my resentment and refuse to obey Christ by praying for my enemy, accepting His enabling power to love them as I love myself, I’m hurting myself. I’m allowing bitterness to fester and separate me from intimacy with my King. And the longer I harden my heart, the further I grow from Him. When this sort of rebellion goes on too long, one can no longer claim to be His. A terrifying reality!

Hurting the Lord

Even more terrifying, refusing to love my enemy hurts the Lord. It makes me a hypocrite and misrepresents the One I claim to follow. Why would my enemy ever desire to follow the God I claim to belong to if I’m living in hatred? If I’m refusing to be an instrument of His love for them? Because He does love them. And He loves me. Christ died and rose again to conquer their sin as much He did mine. I am no better than my enemy. No more deserving of forgiveness and sanctification.

What Loving My Enemy Means

To love my enemy is to desire that they will come to know and love and serve the Lord just like I have. Loving my enemy means recognizing that Jesus really does change everything and desires to change them, just as He has and continues to change me. All for the glory of our Heavenly Father.

When I love my enemy – that person I deeply resent and really don’t want to pray for, let alone love – I’m choosing Jesus Christ over myself. I’m choosing to allow Him to showcase His gospel in and through me. Because then they will see Him and desire Him. Loving my enemy is a way to humbly serve God, because He is worthy. Loving my enemy is a way to influence those observing me and my life for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom!

Jesus Did It First

The even harsher reality that I often neglect to acknowledge, is that Jesus’ whole gospel is a story of Him loving His enemy. Including me. We are to love those who are against us because Jesus loved us even when we were against Him. He set the example and paved the way. Jesus never commands us to do something He has not already accomplished. We can love our enemies like Jesus already has and does because we belong to Him.

Who Aren’t You Loving?

So, Christian, whose face are you picturing as you read this? If there isn’t one, praise God! If there is, join me in surrendering your feelings and human logic to our Savior King. Join me in asking Him to enable you through His grace to love your enemy as yourself. Let’s let go of the bitterness as often as we need to and continue to grow in intimacy with the Lord. Because the people we aren’t loving, He still is.