Luke 6:27-31 (The Amplified Bible)
But I say to you who are listening now to Me: love your enemies, treat well those who detest you and pursue you with hatred, invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God’s blessing upon those who abuse you.
Intellectually, we may be sold on the idea that forgiveness is good medicine for us and for our troubled relationships. But requiring that we love and bless our enemies may seem a little too much for God to ask. It should be enough that we stop gossiping and wishing evil on those who abuse and hate us. Must we also love them? bless them? pray for God’s kindness on them?
According to Jesus, the answer is Yes!
The kind of love Jesus talks about does not arise from our trying to overlook our bitter feelings or to put out of mind the other person’s offenses against us. This kingdom love begins with remembering God’s love for us. When we understand the depth of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice for us, when we let that penetrate our hearts and minds, it changes us. God’s Spirit takes up residence within us and begins to miraculously grow spiritual fruit in us, including love, joy, kindness…in fact, all the qualities we need to love and bless and pray for our enemies, just as Jesus did.
Loving our offenders and abusers is nothing short of supernatural. We can’t get there on our own. But as we grow in our love for God, his Spirit grows in us the love we need to love and serve one another, even our enemies. With God’s reassurance and peace guarding our hearts and minds, we can risk opening ourselves to a more balanced perception of those people who have offended us. Instead of seeing only their negative and hurtful qualities, love helps us to refocus our attention and notice whatever is right and good in our adversaries:
…whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things. (Philippians 4:8, AMP)
FATHER, how grateful I am that you love me even though I am such a mixed bag of emotions and behaviors and desires! No part of me is hidden from you, yet you choose to love me extravagantly and without conditions. Teach me how to see people—especially those who have hurt me—in a more balanced way and to accept them as they are. Give me the desire to serve and pray for them and to share with them the very same love you lavish on me.
Galatians 5:22-23; 1 John 4:9-10
Why is love essential in true forgiveness?