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Love is the alternative


A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34).

A deadly problem is evident in society today. When someone hurts or threatens us, we want to retaliate with words or actions. Is there an alternative to the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” mentality that contributes to a never-ending stream of violence around the world?

One of the most difficult teachings of Jesus, both to understand and to apply, is His alternative to getting even: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). The Greek word for “enemy” is echthros; it literally means, “hated” [one]. An enemy is “hated” because of the hostility and threat they bring into your life.

Love is Jesus’ profound response to hatred. Jesus took the command “love your neighbor” to a new level when He said to love your enemies and return good for evil. God has made us in His image (Gen. 1:26-27) and called us to display God-likeness in the way we relate to our enemies. When we treat both our friends and our enemies with grace and kindness, we are behaving much like our Heavenly Father.

Jesus pointed out that when we love those who love us, we are not much different than unbelieving tax collectors who do the same (Matthew 5:46). When we greet only those we consider “brothers,” how does that differ from the behavior of unbelievers? Jesus is calling His disciples to a higher standard of behavior than that of the world. He sums it up in Matthew 5:48, “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

Loving those who threaten and intimidate us remains a challenge. But, as God enables us to do so, we will reflect more accurately to an unbelieving and hostile world the goodness, grace, and patience of our Heavenly Father. The God-kind of love is for everyone friend or foe alike. Love has greater power to resolve conflicts than hatred and hostility.

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