February 19, Sunday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on March 6, 2016, is provided by Pastor Mark Chun through whom God founded the Radiance Christian Church in 2011. Mark, after recently stepping down as its Lead Pastor, is currently on a sabbatical.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Loving Your Enemy”

Acts 6:8-15 (ESV)

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel

Jesus’ call to love our enemies has largely been swept aside as a utopian fantasy that is unrealistic in the real world.   I recently heard a joke that highlights this point.  A pastor was preaching to his church about loving their enemies and he decided to take a quick survey of his congregation. He asked how many of them could count 10 or more enemies in their life.  A few guilty hands went up.  Then he asked how many of them had 5-10 enemies and a few more repentant hands went up.  Then he asked who had at least one enemy and this time nearly all the hands were raised.  Finally the preacher asked, who has no enemies?  After a moment, the pastor saw the hand of one elderly man being raised and wanting the church to hear the counsel of this godly man, he asked, “What is your secret to having no enemies so late in life?”  The man replied, “I thank God all those bastards have died?”

Laughter aside, this is a joke that has some level of truth to it.  And the truth is that most of us choose to ignore people that we don’t like, simply waiting for the day that either you or that person will die or disappear.  Rarely would we even consider sharing God’s love by evangelizing those who are hostile to us.   Instead of seeing difficult people as an opportunity to fulfill the law of Christ, we tend to run away from the challenges of loving those who disagree with us, offend us, or just annoy the heck out of us.  As the Scriptures point out, man’s natural tendency is to love only those who love us and to show kindness only to those who are kind to us.  Those with a greater sense of social responsibility may show love to people that they have little or no relationship with, but it is a rare thing to find someone who is able to love those who are openly hostile towards them.

But as impossible as this may seem, the practice of loving our enemies was central to the success of the early church, especially as they were persecuted mercilessly. In fact, our understanding of this golden rule is still vitally important in truly living out the Gospel.  We are told that Stephen was a man full of grace and power.  Both of those characteristics were put to the test as he was wrongfully placed on trial and ultimately martyred for his faith.  Yet through it all, we read that Stephen’s face was like that of an angel.  I believe that the only thing that could explain his demeanor under such hostile circumstances was the fact that he was filled with the love of Christ, a love that is not bound by friendship but extends to our enemies.  

Prayer:  Father, reveal to us the full depth, width, and breadth of your love.  Remind us that we were yet enemies, you demonstrated your love by sending your Son to die on our behalf.   As we face those who are hostile to us and to the message of Christianity, help us to respond with the same love that you displayed for us.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 16