Love Your Enemies
Have you ever said the phrase, "Practice what you preach"? I can tell you without any hesitation that I have said those words on more than a few occasions. I, like most everyone else, loathe hypocrisy. There is something that makes my skin crawl when I see or hear it. Unfortunately, this is the very behavior that has soured the world on the church. People hate hypocrites! And, honestly, if we're holding nonbelievers to this standard, which we do, why wouldn't we hold the people of God in even higher esteem?
I have wonderful news! Even if there are hypocrites among the ranks of Christianity, Christ held true to His words even the most adverse circumstances. The words I'm referencing are those spoken by Jesus in Matthew 5:44. There, He said, "But I say unto you, 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;'" In this teaching, Jesus goes on to say a great deal more about this, but even in one verse, you can see the principle. He's not directing His followers to only love their spouses and friends, but the people who despise them and seek their destruction. Surely He knew the times we would live in, as the entire world has united in their utter disdain of Christianity. Now, the question becomes: How did Jesus do when these words were put to the test?
Our answer comes in Luke 23:24. At this point, Jesus has been betrayed by a follower, turned over by the Jewish priests, chosen to die by His own people over a murderer named Barabbas, beaten within an inch of His life by a Centurion soldier wielding a cat-of-nine-tail whip, stripped, mocked, spat on, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, and left to die. Point being, His enemies were all around and the harm they meant Him was not subtle. In that moment, He looked toward Heaven and spoke, saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." The chapter goes on to tell of their further mocking Him as He suffered and died for you, me, and even for them.
I am human. I know myself well enough to say assuredly that given the same circumstances, I would not pray for anyone but myself. That makes me a hypocrite. But I'm not a Savior. Jesus is. And the world can take heart that He lived a life of love. He lived a life free of sin. And He lived a life without an ounce of hypocrisy. So I encourage you... if you hate hypocrisy and you want to follow someone who truly practices what they preach, turn to Jesus. He loved His enemies enough to intercede on their behalf even as they killed Him. That kind of love will save the world.