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The precept of forgiveness implies love your enemies and forgiving them no matter what. I agree. However, sometimes people think that if they forgive then all is well between them and the offender. Sometimes it is not. It depends on the offense and the relationship. Forgiveness can be done quickly and sometimes it can take a long time. Again, it depends on the relationship and the offense. Regardless we are instructed to forgive and love. Now, regarding the relationship. People think that when true forgiveness occurs that all is well in the relationship and all is forgotten. Sometimes the offense can be so horrific and the relationship so damaged that it can not be the same to any degree. Then love must come from a distance with little or no relationship. The forgiver must deal with the misplaced guilt feelings of dislike for the offender. Forgiving and not having a relationship is not a sin. It could be said to be good judgment in the name of peace.
There are three elements to our Lord's instruction. Let me explain. The first element is that He was making reference to the practices of the day. This is the context for the instruction. The late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that many of the laws practised at the time were how the Pharisees and Scribes interpreted them as opposed to how they were meant to be. These practices allowed Jews to take fair revenge for any harms they suffered at others' hands. That is why Jesus made reference to the customs of the day when He said 'You have heard that it was said an eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth' (Matthew 5:38). Similar ways of handling disputes can be found even today in some Muslim countries where the Sharia Law is enforced, with extreme versions of it being practised under the ISIS in parts of Iraq. I listed the first element because I want to point out the nature of the second element which is that Jesus was not simply updating the laws but changing them completely to bring out their true essence! Here our our Lord says 'If someone strikes you on the right cheek then turn to him the other cheek also' Matthew 5:39. He was asking us not only, not to take revenge (i.e. no tit-for-tat), even look the other way or ignore the harms being inflicted by our enemies on us but to do just the opposite, yield rather than take revenge and repay the 'evil' with 'good'! Now that is extremely very hard for us to do. And He does not stop there either. The third element is that He went even beyond those instructions. He now asks us to take an extra step (extraordinary step I would like to say) by not only, not taking revenge and forgiving but also loving those very enemies that harm or even intend to harm us in the first place! 'But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you' (Matthew 5:44). Now, it is one thing not to take revenge or ignore or forget or even forgive but to love the very enemies whose only interest is to do harm to you; damage you; see your downfall and to kick you when you are down! Yet if we think deeply enough we can see that He was simply reminding us of our primary aim in life and that is to be with the Father in heaven. In commanding us to take this extra step He is trying to liberate us from the physical constraints, roots and bonds that tie us down to the physical attractions, pleasures, satisfactions and the joys of this world. Let me explain this last element further because there is no other religious leader who has ever asked His followers to do anything like this, to love their enemies. When we examine this last element deeply we uncover a huge meta-principle underpinning all Jesus' teachings. That is, feelings, emotions and actions like hate, anger, lies, jealousy, revenge, murder, in fact all things that we complain about, are negative only with reference to earthly based things e.g. money, wealth, property, possessions, material, goods, looks, beauty, food, individual abilities. Think about it. If someone steals our money, breaks into our house, steals our goods, uses our credit cards without permission, back-stabs us then we feel resentful, outraged, angry, revengeful. However the moment we disconnect ourselves from those earthly things that are precious to us and replace them with heavenly things, what we should care about such as God's love, faith, salvation, then all the actions of enemies no longer matter to us. In fact no human can commit a crime against any of us or do any harm to us because our judgemental criteria against which we judge others would be all heavenly things. In that way we become completely changed into God's own people. Jesus used this meta-principle in all His teachings to help us focus on life beyond earth. (Please see last paragraph in the response section)
Actually, in our spiritual life as believers and followers of Jesus Christ, our real enemy is an evil spirit that may take control of ourselves, our sinful nature/our fleshly desires. (Galatians 5: 16-26; 1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 6: 10-18) Since the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, Jesus instructed us to fight the enemies with the mighty power of the sword of the Spirit, wich is the word of God. (John 6: 63; Psalm 91:1-16).
This verse is one of the most difficult in the bible and also one of the most sublime. It differentiates Christianity from all other religions. I believe that loving your enemies doesn't apply to evil spiritual entities such as Satan, Lucifer, the devil, demonic beings, etc. It doesn't apply to anyone who has taken the mark of the beast and been cast into the lake of fire. It doesn't apply to any person known to be in hell, although we rarely, if ever, can be completely certain any particular person has been totally lost in that way. Christ's command to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you seemingly divides people into two groups - enemies and persecutors. Persecutors seeking our lives and bodily harm are not required to be loved, but they must be prayed for since the Melchizedek priesthood intercedes for all of true humanity, not just Christians. Enemies are those who seek to contradict us, belittle, ridicule, insult, mock, antagonize or strive against us, etc. These people are to be loved because without them we would have little or nothing to overcome so as to receive the rewards mentioned in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. They are such that real love which overcomes evil with good can ultimately lead to conversion to Christianity.
I'm so glad you asked. We see in Matthew 5:43-44 (Life Application Bible Notes) if you love your enemies and treat them well, you will truly show that Jesus is Lord of your life.This is possible only for those who give themselves fully to God, because only he can deliver people from natural selfishness. We must trust the Holy Spirit to help us show love for those whom we may not feel love.
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