Jesus commands me to radically love my enemy in the Sermon on the Mount. This is the distinguishing characteristic that separates pagans from Christians. He even goes so far as to say, ‘turn the other cheek.’ And persecution unto death is the most radical opportunity to love my enemy.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:38-48
Turn the other cheek
A slap is not a deadly assault. Turning the other cheek mirrors the Old Testament adage to not retaliate. It is more about shame and ego than physical harm.
If someone wants to sue me, I will settle out of court and provide more than he is asking. This may shame him into repentance.
Walk two miles
If someone forces me to walk a mile with him, I will walk two, twice as much as he demanded.
Anyone who wants to borrow from me will receive a donation. God is generous to me and I trust him to continue to provide for my needs.
Pray for my persecutors
Persecution for the sake of the gospel is inevitable. I pray for my enemies in other countries. I also should pray for my persecutors right within my own household, city, or region.
Love my enemy
The examples above collapse down to loving my enemy. It shows that my enemy may want to humiliate me with a slap. He even may want to start a duel of feud. When I don’t retaliate, he may be shamed into recognizing he is in the wrong and repent. Anyone who sues me is trying to get something from me through the legal system. If I bypass the legal system and simply give what he asks and more, he also may feel shamed. Someone who forces me to walk a mile may need help and doesn’t know how to ask for it. If I go two miles, I have helped him beyond what he asked. And my generosity will spill over into my enemies as well as my friends. God makes no difference when he blesses everyone with sunshine and rain.
In the case of physical danger from an enemy, I ask if I am hated because of my faith, or just random. If it is not about my faith then I will love my enemy by escaping the enemy attack. Sometimes I must escape from a social predator. Safety from an abuser is always the best policy. I can love an abuser from a distance. Otherwise I may not survive to share the gospel with him at a later time when he is more receptive.
The only way I can love an enemy who is trying to kill me is to forgive him. Jesus did this while on the cross. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. Matthew 24:9
Lord Jesus, I ask for your grace to help me love my enemy as you have instructed. I pray for my enemy right now and ask that you show me what to do the next time I meet him. Amen.