The Overcoming Love of God (Love Your Enemies)

Artwork about the suffering, persecuted church. Jesus and two persecuted Christians (from Nigeria and China/North Korea) are loving their enemies, blessing and praying for them (Matthew 5, Luke 6). Love flows out of their hearts like a river, engulfing a rioting crowd of anti-Christians (muslims, communists, pagans, Roman Catholics), who are persecuting Christians by throwing stones, shooting guns, threatening with swords, torches and weapons.

BELIEVER’S ROAD SERIES 2

Click on the image to enlarge it

SOLD, Pen, Watercolor Pencil, Colored Pencil on Matboard; 52 cm x 21.5 cm (20.5″ x 8.5″)

 

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36)

God’s love is non-sensical to us humans because it is so much greater than the humanly ‘love’ we communicate to one another here on earth.

Why does God tell us to love our enemies? What sort of unearthly reasoning lies behind that? To forgive and not retaliate seems to be a big enough ask for a normal human being, but to go a step further and love those hate us and do good to those who hurt us seems illogical and too difficult for the average person to do.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

So far as I can understand it, however, this is the same sort of unearthly reasoning behind the grace and love of God that saved me.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)

I was God’s enemy when he saved me. I was in cold-hearted rebellion against him and did not heed his commands, for I did whatever I wanted when I wanted. I was selfishly living as the lord of my own life and thus denying him as Lord and God. All of us humans act in this way prior to encountering his Amazing Grace because it is our inherent sinful nature.

“We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles [non-Jews] alike are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.’ ‘Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.’ ‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’ ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.'” (Romans 3:9-18)

Nevertheless, God loved me even when I was his enemy. He saw my predicament–that I was on my way to hell, for that is the just penalty I would reap for my rebellion. Thanks be to God that out of his great, non-sensical love, he saved me through Jesus Christ. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…

God graciously revealed to me my sinful state and my destiny if I continued in my sin…By grace he taught my heart to fear. Then he graciously revealed his provision in my helpless predicament: Jesus Christ, the Savior. In love, God came to earth as the man Jesus and laid down his life to ransom me from my sins and their penalty. He died on the cross in my place to pay the punishment for my sins. He showed me that if I repent (confess and turn away) from my sins and trust in Jesus to save me from my sins I would be forgiven and granted eternal life. God then granted me the gift of faith to believe and receive that free gift of reconciliation, forgiveness and eternal salvation in him….And grace my fears relieved, How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:1-9)

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying…” (Titus 3:3-7)

If God so loved me, even when I was his enemy, if God laid down his life for me (and “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)–and how much greater to lay down his life for his enemies), then am I not to behave in the same manner as a child of God, since I have now been born again and bear my Father’s spiritual DNA (1 John 3:9)?

Grace is non-sensical because it is completely undeserved and unmerited. Likewise, the redemption of a rebellious human race that is at enmity with God is also non-sensical, but that is the overwhelming, unearthly greatness of God’s love toward us. (See “Unworthy, But That’s The Grace of God” (Believer’s Road Series).) The love and grace of God that saved me is the same non-sensical love and grace of God that is meant to flow through me to love my enemies.

God is reconciling the world back to himself, and we Christians are Christ’s ambassadors of that message of reconciliation (in word and deed):

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

Jesus did not turn back as the Pharisees condemned him and put him to death. In fact, shortly before that event, Jesus said of the, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).

Jesus, as both God and a sinless man, had every right to condemn us; however, he did not come to condemn us but to save us. God’s heart is redemption and love. To sacrifice his life to save his enemies was the greatest demonstration of love he could possibly give us.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)

“For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:56 NKJV)

Likewise, as ambassadors of Christ, we bear his love in our hearts (Romans 5:5, 1 John 4:7) and manifest this same love of redemption that God first showed us. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Loving our enemies is simply a manifestation of the same gracious love God first showed to us.

Furthermore, it is through God’s kindness and love that people are led to repentance. “…God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4). (A great Biblical example of this can be found in 2 Kings 6:8-23.) We love our enemies in the hope that they too will be reconciled to God and saved from the judgment of hell that looms over their heads. When we keep their looming judgment in the forefront of our minds it fills our hearts with love and compassion to do whatever we can to see them saved.

Lastly, God’s amazing love and grace is all the more glorified when he demonstrates it in the redemption of his enemies. This gives us good courage to persevere in our kindness towards our enemies even when they treat us harshly. Consider Paul the apostle who, prior to his conversion, persecuted Christians to their deaths:

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 2:13-17)

Paul became an opportunity for God to display his exceeding goodness, grace, love, mercy and unlimited patience towards the worst of sinners. God’s grace is not grace if it is earned through our good works. People expect justice (where one receives what his deeds merit), but they do not marvel at it; however, people marvel at the glory of grace (where one receives that which his deeds did not merit). God is shown to be holy through his justice, but he is even more glorified through the demonstration of his love and grace.

Love is the one thing which every one of us longs for. Our hearts are not won by God through being beaten, threatened or forced into submission. Jesus seeks to win the world’s hearts through his incessant love. That is what he demonstrated to us as laid down his life for us on the cross. May God give us Christians the grace to demonstrate that same redeeming love to our enemies.


This drawing came out of experiences of being strongly opposed, and in a few instances, physically threatened by non-Christians.

Our love for our enemies must be sincere (Romans 12:9), and in order to do this, we must first have a genuine experiential understanding of the same grace of God manifested towards us when we were still his enemies. Knowing how undeserved we are of his love, grace and mercy empowers us to shed the same undeserved love, grace and mercy upon those who oppose us.

I can testify to the dynamic truth of the Scriptures, for in my personal experience I have found that the most powerful thing we can do for our enemies is to pray for them, bless them and love them (Luke 6:27-36). Furthermore, as we do this it radically transforms our hearts towards them.

My drawing features a hoard of God’s enemies, rallied under various worldly banners that oppose Jesus Christ. There are many more different banners beyond the paganism, communism, Islam and Roman Catholicism I have depicted. (The Roman Catholics have been one of the greatest persecutors of Christians historically whereas Muslims are among the leading persecutors today). Jesus and two believers are loving, blessing and praying for them. The love of God incessantly overflows out of their hearts and overcomes the army. Their love is greater and more powerful than the hatred of the men and women who assault them.

I have specifically chosen to draw a woman from Nigeria, a place specifically on my heart, where Christians are suffering severely because of their faith. I have also chosen to draw an Asian man, who represents those suffering severely in North Korea and China (two places also specifically on my heart although there are many more in Asian countries suffering severely as Christians).

John the Baptist Artworks sends all its profits beyond operating expenses to three Christian missions and charities, one of which is Barnabas Fund, an organization which helps suffering and persecuted Christians around the world. Please consider helping our Christian brothers and sisters by donating to this organization.

Here is an article about those suffering persecution in Nigeria:

http://barnabasfund.org/AU/News/Archives/Nigerian-army-chief-estimates-death-toll-by-Boko-Haram-at-3000.html?&quicksearch=nigeria

Here is another article of those suffering persecution in North Korea:

http://barnabasfund.org/AU/News/Archives/North-Korea-Jobs-and-Bread-amid-Harsh-Repression.html?&quicksearch=%22north+korea%22

Here is an article on those suffering in China:

http://barnabasfund.org/AU/News/Archives/Chinese-government-uses-mafia-type-violence-against-Christians.html?&quicksearch=%22china%22