“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.That’s the only thing that there is just too little of.” Do you remember that song used in a popular Coke-Cola ad? That is the same message found in 1 Peter 2:17:
“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
Peter and the Coke-Cola jingle writer could have collaborated on that sentiment.
One thing that is desperately lacking in our world is love. We especially need to express love to those who disagree with us. There is only one source for the kind of love to which Peter refers. We have one place to look for an example of what love towards someone who we disagree with looks like. Read the Gospels and consider the relationship that Jesus had with Judas Iscariot. Imagine that not one of the disciples even considered the treachery that Jesus knew was in Judas’ heart as He urged Judas to leave the last supper. Jesus alone knew Judas’ errand was to carry out the murderous intentions of the religious leaders by revealing Jesus’ private whereabouts in a deep form of betrayal sealed with a kiss. Jesus’ utter act of love for Judas was not enough to divert his heart from succumbing to the control of Satan. Judas seemed numb to the love that Jesus lavished onto him and didn’t even attempt to turn back to Jesus, even when his own heart betrayed him by overwhelming him with remorse. Instead, he brought his remorseful heart to the Temple courts, where he found no answer for his act of betrayal.
The relationship between Jesus and Judas reveals two facets of love. Jesus not only asks us to love our enemies, but He also demonstrated what love for our enemy looks like. It is simple, straight out. It looks like love. It looks like kindness. It looks like willingness to stand up for the truth, i.e. when Judas was attacking Mary of Bethany for anointing Jesus with an expensive jar of perfume. Jesus set Judas straight by defending Mary, but He didn’t kick Judas out of the group. The second facet of love is that even if your love for your enemy was as perfect as Jesus’ love, your enemy has the power to respond to the love or deny your love. If Jesus’ love could not turn Judas, then you should expect that in many cases your love for your enemy will not necessarily turn them back.
So, what is the point of loving your enemy if they will continue to be your enemy? It is about intimacy with God. When I get over myself and my emotional reaction to my enemy and give my heart over to love, I am never closer to God. I love the line from the musical Les Misérables: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” For me this is nowhere more powerful than when I catch myself loving someone who has purposefully, deceitfully and intentionally done me wrong. I feel a mini-transfiguration of my former being. I get this sudden realization that I am better than I am. I feel the presence of God in my heart in a tangible manner. For me, loving my enemy (with God’s help) is well worth the peace that overwhelms my soul and the pleasure I sense between my sweet heavenly Father and myself.
During these days of intense opposition within society, Paul’s words could not be more needed or instructive. Love! Love everyone. Love your enemies. Love the family of God. When the church is unwilling to love each other, we are really in trouble. Peter even goes so far as to say to love your governmental leaders by honoring them as leaders God in His sovereignty is allowing to govern for this time and for this day.
Disagree with that person all you want but do so with honor whether they deserve it or not. How can you love your enemy or someone with whom you disagree? It starts with fearing God. Believe that God is who He says He is and that He is the one who instructs you to honor, respect and love. Do it for God. It is sweet to your soul!