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franklin county times

Faith Focus: Love your enemies?

FRANKLIN LIVING —

Have you noticed Jesus often challenges would-be followers in some astoundingly difficult ways?

A prime example is found in Matthew 5:43-44, when Jesus states, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies.” How are you doing with living out that commandment?

Perhaps you have an enemy or two. That’s certainly not unheard of in this easily-offended world. However, I suspect most of us are in a more common situation: True enemies tend to be few and far between. So, we obviously have this teaching from Jesus fully implemented in our lives, right? Maybe not.

In his book “Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount,” retired theology professor Randy Harris observes that loving his enemies is not the most challenging task – because he has so few of them – but pinpoints the more difficult task. He talks about the challenge of loving the irritants in his life.

Irritants. Just reading the word likely bring specific people to mind. There’s no hatred. These aren’t enemies, per se. These people just rub you the wrong way and maybe bring out less-than-the-best in you.

They might be customers, co-workers, classmates or even members of the church you attend – and they are people Jesus wants us to genuinely love. Let’s face it, if Jesus wants us to love our enemies, he certainly wants us to love those who irritate us.

Whether enemies or merely irritants, how can we proactively live out this divine teaching to love them? Hear the entirety of Matthew 5:44: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

Bless them? Really? Yes! Find something commendable to say about your enemy or irritant. Yes, Jesus is going beyond Grandma’s good advice, which was to “say something nice or don’t say anything at all.” Jesus says, find a way to bless them.

Do good to them? Absolutely! This idea existed in God’s instruction all the way back in Exodus 23. Paul emphasized this concept in Romans 12:20 when he quoted from Proverbs 25.

Pray for them? Yes! It’s much more difficult to hold on to ill will when your enemy or irritant is being lifted up before God in prayer.

All of us are in the same sad condition without Jesus, according to Titus 3:3-7. That’s why it matters whether we follow him to the best of our ability. Will we be disciples? Or will be worldly people who happen to roll into a worship service from time to time?

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Philip Goad is the minister at North Highlands Church of Christ in Russellville. He is married to Marla, and they have a daughter, Kayla Thorne, who is married to Josh. They also have a son, Preston, and one grandchild, Greyson Thorne.

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