Love the enemy, because Jesus loved you.

The last Saturday of April 2008, a softball conference-championship game is underway between Central Washington and Western Oregon. Sara Tucholsky, a senior of Western Oregon, was nearing the end of her collegiate career without a single conference championship or home-run. That all changed in the second inning when Tucholsky stepped up to the plate with two runners on base. On the second pitch she smashed a three-run homer over the right outfield wall. The crowd, the team, and Tucholsky all erupted in celebration, but during the celebration Tucholsky committed the one crime that every athlete knows to avoid. She failed to touch first base. Realizing her mistake she plants her foot, pivots, and collapses in excruciating pain. Crawling back to first base, she knows what should have been a clip for her highlight reel just became her worst nightmare. Her ACL was torn. Gripping the bag in frustration Tucholsky’s coach pleaded her case, but the collegiate ruling is firm: If she could not reach home, then she would be counted out. Her first and only home-run just moments from being stripped away. Until Mallory Holtman a player from central Washington, who possessed more home-runs than other player in conference history, spoke up. Upon making her request, Holtman recalls the outlandish look on the umpires face, “You want to do what?” Holtman replied, “We want to carry her to home.” In a few moments several Central Washington players lifted Tucholsky onto their shoulders and proceeded to march around the base paths, stopping at each one to let Tucholsky touch the base. This wasn’t a free act of kindness though, this act cost them. The final score: Western Oregon 4-2 over Central Washington. It cost them the game, the season, and the conference championship. Holtman and her teammates had absolutely nothing to gain, but everything to lose. I find this story to be a beautiful representation of that age-old Christian teaching: Love your enemies. Allow me to explain…

When we read that famous passage from Luke chapter six I believe we are caught in the midst of two opposing calls. The call of Christ and the call of pride. I can almost imagine, in my mind, the facial expressions Jesus would have gotten from this explosive sermon. Immediately Jesus dives into a series of commands that are polar opposite from what culture has taught every single person reading this blog. Remember… “If someone hits you, then you hit back” or “Don’t give to those who beg, they only try to scam you.” At the root of Southern pride culture is the proverbial life principle: take care of yourself first, worry about others second. Brothers and sisters, are we so conditioned culturally that we fail to see the error in this? That type of thinking is only centered on self, and entirely focused on taking. If you asked my students what the number one rule to relationships is they would unequivocally respond: Love gives, it never takes. Jesus is calling you to love. Jesus is calling you to a love that looks radically different from the hate you are conditioned to. Jesus is calling you to a love that puts others before yourself. “But wait, that’s not fair! What about the other person? What about justice?” declares the pride from our hearts. Pride distorts our perception of fairness as being synonymous with revenge or retaliation. Pride is okay with giving, just as long as you give people what they deserve. Again, Christ calls us in a polar opposite direction than that of self and culture. Jesus is calling you to a love that gives people mercy instead of retaliation. Because let’s be honest. You don’t merely want to return the insult, you want to return a greater insult. Pride doesn’t want to get even, pride wants to get better. Jesus is calling you out of that “get better” lifestyle. Jesus is calling you to give mercy, instead of taking out revenge. Because mercy doesn’t give people what they deserve, mercy gives people what they do not deserve. Love gives, it never takes. “But what’s in it for me?” is pride’s final question. Talk about revealing a self-centered heart. Can we not see that “love in terms of what we receive” is self-defeating? It’s ridiculous. It’s ugly. It’s not love. Just look at your relationships for an example: If you form a friendship based on what you receive from the other person then what happens when they no longer can provide that benefit? True friends will stick around when times get tough. People who truly love you will stick around even when you have nothing to offer. There it is: Jesus is calling you to love people from whom you have nothing to gain. This is at heart of loving your enemy! Like what could you possibly have to gain from praying for those who abuse you? Nothing, absolutely nothing. That’s tough right?

If your pride is still evoking an argument then brace yourself. Because in the end Jesus provides the only reason you need to follow Him and not your pride. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Why can Jesus call you to a love that puts others before your self? Because on the cross Jesus put you before Himself. Can you feel the weight of that gravity? Why can Jesus call you to a love that gives people what they don’t deserve, because on the cross Jesus offered you what you did not deserve: Salvation. We all deserve hell. Every last one of us. I’m so glad that God, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, offers me merciful grace instead of wrathful vengeance. Why can Jesus call you to a love that has nothing to gain? Because Jesus had absolutely nothing to gain from dying on that cross for you. If God had wiped out humanity He would have been perfectly just in doing so and He still would have been infinitely joyful. Like consider that for just a moment: God doesn’t need you. He was joyful, glorified, and perfectly fulfilled before humanity ever existed, because for all eternity the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been existing in perfect community. Perfectly loving. Perfectly serving. Perfectly giving. Jesus didn’t die on the cross to gain something from you, He died on the cross because He loved you. Love gives, it never takes. Jesus can call you to love your enemy, because at the very heart of His mission we find Him loving the enemy, you and me, on the cross. Let go of the pride and run after the call of Christ. Be selfless, be giving, be loving.

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