No. 26: Love your enemies
John 15:18-27 and John 16:1-4
“You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:19.
The “world” refers to the godless, secular society and systems of thinking that are in opposition to Jesus Christ and His followers. There will always be people in the world who hate believers and we need to understand that the root of their rejection comes from the world’s hatred of Christ Himself. As believers walking by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are like Him. We speak His words, love with His love and think with His mind. Hostility is inevitable as we remain in Jesus. If we are no longer of this world, then its lifestyle, its conversation, its aims, its sources of satisfaction and its opinions show the great divide between our new life and the Enemy’s domain.
Persecution comes in many different ways
In foreign countries, worship and the meeting together of believers can be restricted or forbidden; distribution of God’s word can be illegal; people can be arrested and tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ.
In the Western world, persecution comes in more subtle ways: promotions may be stopped or jobs lost because believers refuse to take part in dishonest practices (such as offering cash deals, stealing, not declaring tax, fiddling the books). Children can be penalised at school (through mockery or a refusal to teach about occult practices) or family members can be ostracised at home. (Matthew 10:33-39; Micah 7:6-10).
Persecution can be expected because:
- “They do not know the One who sent me.” John 15:21; 16:2.
- “They have no excuse for their sin.” John 15:22-24.
- “This is to fulfil what is written in the law.” John 15:25.
“They hated Me without reason.” John 15:25.
It is so important that we do not confuse true persecution with just a breakdown of relationships caused by our wrong attitude or behaviour. True persecution comes when we are walking by the power of the Holy Spirit, showing fruit in our lives and are hated by others because of it. If we have a difficult situation, we have to examine our hearts and make sure that we are “being hated without cause”. If this is the case, there will be a deep, personal satisfaction in knowing that we have suffered (at least a little) just like Jesus.
Advantages of persecution
- We shall have a reward in Heaven. Matthew 5:11-12.
- The glory of God is revealed in us. Romans 8:17-18.
- Jesus Himself is revealed in our behaviour. 2 Corinthians 4:10-11.
- We are “crucified to the world”. Galatians 6:14-17.
- We become more like Jesus, Philippians 3:1.
- It encourages us to look to heaven, Hebrews 13:13-14.
- We are following Jesus’ example, 1 Peter 2:21.
“Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the Name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of Glory and of God rests on you… If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that Name.” 1 Peter 4:12-16.
Reactions to persecution:
- We can satisfy our enemy’s need. Proverbs 25:21; Romans 12:20.
- We can love your enemies. Luke 6:27-36; Exodus 23:1-9.
- We can pray for those that persecute us. Matthew 5:43-48.
- We can rejoice! Matthew 5:12.
- We can walk in the light of God’s word. 1 John 2:1-11.
- We can be kind to the ungrateful. Luke 6:35.
- We can please God, who He will cause our enemies to live at peace with us. Proverbs 16:7.
As Christians, we are commanded to love our enemies. This is one of the greatest fruits of a transformed life. God has this instruction in both the Old and New Testament.
(See Leviticus 19:18 and John 13:34-35.)
God gives us many different ways to apply His word when responding to persecution:
- We can help our enemies, where the world would look for revenge. We have to give through actions of kindness which run contrary to our “natural” reaction. When walking with the Spirit, we obey His promptings. He shows us what to do and gives us the grace to do it. (Compare Exodus 23:1-9.)
- We can love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). This has to be a choice before it’s an action. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross but He was obedient, through love, even when we were His enemies. Romans 5:10.
- We can feed our enemies (Romans 12:20; Proverbs 25:21-22). This too can be practical in just helping to provide your enemy’s daily needs. We say, “But you just don’t know what he has done to me”. No, but Jesus does. He knows exactly how you feel, all the different emotions, yet still He says: “Bless your enemies… pray for them.” (See Matthew 5:43-44.)
- We can stay in the world (John 17:18). Make an effort to have a relationship with unbelievers, asking the Holy Spirit to lead your conversation to share Jesus.
- We can rejoice! “Blessed are those who are persecuted” (Matthew 5:10). We are to spin around, laugh and jump for joy, because our rewards will be great! We will inherit a blessing beyond anything we can even imagine now. The things of this world are short-lived, but the things of God last for ever and are glorious. We need to move our focus away from the things of this life and on to the more important ones. Try reading 1 Peter 3:13-4:19 for help. “Do not be afraid of their threats” but, in your heart, focus on Christ.
“Father, forgive these people, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
This has got to be the prayer of our heart just like Jesus. When we have problems, He promises: “My grace is sufficient for you.” (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
So, call on the ever-present Holy Spirit to help you release His love and forgiveness for your enemies. It’s God’s love, through testing circumstances, that is a witness to the world.
Jesus has just warned His disciples that they are going to have persecution because they are His followers, BUT He now encourages them by telling them again about the Holy Spirit. In their horror of losing Jesus, He assures them that they will be all right. (See John 16:7.) We are not left without adequate resources, but have the Comforter, Counsellor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, and Standby to help us in EVERY situation. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, shows us the future, turns our eyes to Jesus and gives Him all the glory. (See John 16:12-16.)
His rôle is also to convince the world (every person on the whole planet) of the sin of unbelief in Jesus and to call people to turn around and put their trust in Him. He reveals God’s standards of right and demonstrates that Satan has been judged. With the Holy Spirit, we have all the power that raised Jesus from the dead at our disposal, so we are victorious and can overcome any situation. We do not have to fear as we are already winners!
Home challenges for Power Up! – No. 26: Love your enemies
1. Share what you found most exciting about the previous study: “Good Friends?”
2. Read the notes on: “Love your enemies”. What spoke to you and challenged you?
3. a) Is there anything that the Holy Spirit is asking you to do to bless an enemy?
b) Can you pray the prayer: “Father forgive…”
4. From the names of the Holy Spirit (in the notes on “John 16:5-16″), which do you find most helpful?
Read John 16:17-24
5. What questions were the disciples asking each other?
6. What answer did Jesus give the disciples, after He showed them that He knew what they were talking about?
7. What example did He give them (from a woman’s experience) to prove His point? How did He apply it?
8. Which day do you think He was talking about when He said “in that day“? (John 16:22-23)
9. a) What promise does Jesus give here (John 16:23-24) regarding requests to the Father?
b) What is the condition and the result?
c) Which fruit of the Spirit will be experienced in abundance?
10. Can you share a personal experience of a time when you have applied these verses and your joy has been complete?
Read John 16:25-33
11. How do you think that Jesus’ assurance of the Father’s love helps the disciples through this heart-breaking time?
12. Can you apply the promise in John 16:27 to your own life?
13. a) What does Jesus predict in John 16:32 and what encouragement does He give Himself?
b) Do you need this special encouragement today or for your future?
14. a) How do you think this failure made the disciples feel? How would it affect their self-worth?
b) Do you have an area of apparent failure? Does it affect your self-worth? What are you doing about it?
15. According to John 16:33, why did Jesus tell the disciples these things?
16. What has Jesus overcome? In what area of your life do you need to know this encouragement?
17. Memorise and meditate on this verse: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.