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 sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his son 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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? –Matthew 5:43-47
When you choose to follow Jesus Christ, you are choosing to do things His way. He wants you to love people with His love, and this kind of love goes so far as to love even our enemies. One of the stories that were most influential in my life describes something that happened during World War I. The story was told by an old colonel in the Austrian Army.
I was commanded to march against a little town on the Tyrol and lay siege to it. We had been meeting stubborn resistance in that part of the country, but we felt sure that we should win because all of the advantages were on our side. My confidence, however, was arrested by a remark from a prisoner we had taken. “You will never take that town,” he said, “for they have an invincible leader.”
“What does that fellow mean?” I inquired of one of my staff. “And who is this leader of whom he speaks?”
Nobody seemed able to answer my question, and so in case there should be some truth in the report, I doubled preparations.
As we descended through the pass in the Alps, I saw with surprise that the cattle were still grazing in the valley and that women and children (yes, and even men) were still working in the fields.
Either they are not expecting us or this is a trap to catch us, I thought to myself. As we drew nearer the town we passed people on the road. They smiled and greeted us with a friendly word and then went on their way.
Finally we reached the town and clattered up the cobble paved streets, colors flying, horns sounding a challenge, arms in readiness. Women came to the windows or doorways with little babies in their arms. Some of them looked startled and held their babies closer, then went quietly on with their household tasks without panic or confusion. It was impossible to keep strict discipline and I began to feel rather foolish. My soldiers answered the questions of children and I saw one old warrior throw a kiss to a little golden-haired tot on a doorstep. “Just the size of Lisa,” he muttered. Still no sign of an ambush. We rode straight to the open square which faced the town hall. Here, if anywhere, resistance surely was to be expected.
Just as I had reached the hall and my guard was drawn up at attention, an old white-haired man, who by his insignia I surmised to be the mayor, stepped forth, followed by ten men in simple peasant costume. They were all dignified and unabashed by the armed force before them–the most terrible soldiers of the great and mighty army of Austria.
He walked down the steps straight toward my horse’s side, and with hand extended, cried, “Welcome, brother!” One of my aides made a gesture as if to strike him down with his sword, but I saw by the face of the old mayor that this was no trick on his part. “Where are your soldiers?” I demanded.
“Soldiers?” Why, don’t you know we have none?” he replied in wonderment, as though I had asked, “Where are your giants?” or “Where are your dwarfs?”
“But we have come to take this town.”
“Well, no one will stop you.”
“Are there none here to fight?”
At this question, the old man’s face lit up with a rare smile that I will always remember. Often afterward, when engaged in bloody warfare, I would suddenly see that man’s smile and somehow, I came to hate my business. His words were simple: “No, there is no one here to fight. We have chosen Christ for our Leader and He taught men another way.”*
1. In Matthew 5:43-47, what does God call us to do to our enemies and those who persecute us?
2. Is there someone who has done you wrong? Is it possible for you to pray for and try to love that person?
Leviticus 19:18; Luke 6:27,28,32
* Clarence Jordan, Sermon on the Mount (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1970), pp. 59-60.