“Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27)
“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
This article is in two parts. The first part is an illustration of the principle; the second part explains the revolutionary principle from our Lord.
He sat on the upper deck of the United States warship Missouri and watched the so-called Peace Proceedings that put an end to the Second World War in the Pacific. General Douglas MacArthur, representing the United States, said something which brought a sneer to his lips.
“Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always.”
Fuchida’s historian writes: “Fuchida listened skeptically. He had doubted his own emperor when he spoke of everlasting peace, and he didn’t believe the general now. No, he thought, you are wrong, MacArthur. Peace isn’t coming to the world. More trouble is coming.”
Mitsuo Fuchida knew that war is the natural state of mankind. People are selfish, and their interests conflict. As long as people have lived on earth, there have been wars, and there will be wars until the end. It’s natural and normal. There’s no way to end it.
Then one day months after the war’s end, Fuchida was talking to some former POWs who had just returned from internment in the United States. That’s when he began hearing of another way.
Some of those imprisoned in the U.S. told of a young American social worker named Peggy Covell who had been so kind to them, even though the Japanese were her sworn enemies.
On one occasion, Fuchida learned the reason for her kindnesses.
A close friend of Fuchida had been shot down and spent the rest of the war in American POW camps. In one of them, he met Peggy Covell. He asked why she was so kind, why she went out of her way to be helpful. He was not prepared for her answer.
I am kind to the Japanese because the Japanese murdered my parents.
Her parents, Jimmy and Charma Covell, had been missionaries to Japan. With other missionaries, they had evacuated to the Philippines when war threatened. Eventually, they were found and beheaded.
Their son and daughter in the U.S. had not learned of their parents’ death until early in 1945 when the Philippines were liberated. At first, Peggy was angry and filled with hate that they people who had been the object of her parents’ love and prayers could have killed them. But eventually, she knew she had to forgive them and show them the love of Christ. She inquired and found out that the POW hospitals needed social workers and she volunteered.
She was forgiving her enemies, loving those who had brought so much sorrow to her own life.
When Fuchida heard of this, he was stunned. Whoever heard of forgiving one’s enemies? In Japan, he said, it was considered honorable to pronounce a seven-fold curse on one’s enemies. But to forgive them?
He began reading about this Christian faith. One day he found the book I Was a Japanese Prisoner of War, written by Jacob DeShazer, one of Doolittle’s Raiders who had been shot down and spent three years in a POW camp. While there, he came to know Christ and determined the Lord would have him return to Japan as a missionary when the war ended.
Next, Fuchida came across a man giving out Bibles. He eagerly took one and went home to read it, wanting to find out more about this new kind of faith which would put an end to war. He read and read. And then he came to Luke 23.
The Lord Jesus was hanging on the cross, dying. At the base of the cross, His executioners are taunting Him, spitting on Him, cursing Him Jesus looks toward Heaven and prays, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they do.”
At that moment, Fuchida became a Christian. He had never met a Christian, and had never talked to one. But Christ had captured his heart through the example of a young woman who was loving instead of hating, a former bombardier who was loving the captors who had treated him so cruelly, and by the testimony of Christ Himself.
Later, he would come across Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
It was world-changing. Revolutionary. Amazing.
“It was like having the sun come up,” Fuchida said.
For the rest of his life, Mitsuo Fuchida dedicated himself to spreading the message of Jesus Christ.
I heard him speak in chapel at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in the mid-1960s and never forgot it. I do not recall one thing he said; but I never forgot who he was and how God had captured this Samurai. (The story was first told in Gordon Prange’s book God’s Samurai, and later in T. Martin Bennett’s Wounded Tiger. Fuchida’s autobiography is For That One Day.)
Love your enemies.
No teaching of our Lord’s has been more attacked, slandered, ridiculed and vilified than His calling on people to love those who hate them, to turn the other cheek when hit, to go the second mile with one’s oppressors, to give one’s shirt to someone stealing his coat.
And yet, this may be the most amazing, revolutionary, world-saving principle ever.
The text is Luke 6:27-35. It is a larger rendition of the same message found in Matthew chapter 5, the Sermon on the Mount.
Verse 27 of Luke 6 answers three huge questions…
–“Lord, is this teaching for everyone?”
No. He said, “I say to you who hear.” Not everyone hears or gets spiritual things. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (I Corinthians 2:14).
–“Lord, what do you mean by my enemies? Who are my enemies?”
Answer: Those who hate you, threaten you, curse you, hit you, take what is yours. It’s not that you make them your enemies so much as they put themselves in that category by their actions.
–“Lord, how can I love them? I don’t even like them?”
Answer: He did not command you to like them. Some of them He doesn’t like either. He commanded you to love them. And in Scripture, love is never simply an emotion but is always accompanied by action. Love is something we do.
So, when the Lord commands us to love our enemies, He gives four actions that explain precisely what He had in mind…
- We are to do good things to our enemies.
- We are to bless our enemies. That is, say good things to them.
- We are to pray for our enemies. Ask God to do His will in their lives.
- We are to give to our enemies.
These are the four most basic acts of love: Do good, bless, pray and give. You do these things to your beloved child or grandchild—and a whole lot more, of course. But you do these four things. You do good deeds for your children, you bless them, pray for them and give to them, among other things. But these four actions are what the Lord had in mind when He called on us to love our enemies.
It’s world-changing. In fact, it’s more than that…
When we do loving things for our enemies, 12 things happen…
- God is honored.
- Jesus is pleased.
- The Holy Spirit is able to use our actions to accomplish His will.
- The devil is infuriated. You are not playing by the rules.
- The enemy—those who did the bad things to you—are puzzled. They fully expected you to retaliate and do unto them as they had done to you.
- The critics of the church are silenced. They were all prepared to watch you respond to the bad guy with evil deeds of your own, which they would use against you. But instead, you do loving things and they don’t know what to do.
- The church itself is blessed.
- Christians going through hard times see your behavior and are inspired to do the same.
- Outsiders are drawn to Jesus. Finally, they see someone doing the same kind of things He did!
- You yourself are blessed.
- Your anger goes away.
- And according to Luke 6:35, your reward in Heaven is great.
Nothing you and I will do in this life is more important than to show the love of Christ to people who get on our nerves, constantly harass us, persecute us for our faith, and make life miserable for us.
This is not natural. It cannot be done in the flesh. It’s supernatural and doable only by God’s Spirit.
Only the godly and the faithful will do it. The rest will respond with lawsuits, attacks of their own, slander of their own and retaliation.
Jesus understood this. He said…
–If you only love those who love you, where is the power of that? Lost people do that.
–If you only do good to those who do good to you, where is the power in that? Unsaved people do this every day.
–If you give only to those who plan to give back to you, big deal. The world does this all the time.
But if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are not going to be allowed to retaliate. You will love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who threaten you, and give to those who would take away what is yours.
Do that and the world changes.
You have His word on it.
This article originally appeared here.
Joe McKeeverhttp://www.joemckeever.com/Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.