But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44-45)
When Jesus was 12, He and His family went to Jerusalem for Passover, like they did every other year. After the celebration was over, though, Jesus did something weird, He stayed behind in Jerusalem instead of heading back to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph. After three days of anxiety and fear, they finally found Him, sitting in the Temple and learning from the scribes, blowing them away with His unnatural wisdom and understanding. When they asked Him why He would do such a thing and worry them so much, He says “Shouldn’t you already know? I have to be about My Father’s business. Of course I would be here.” After that, He goes back with them and obeys them perfectly, as usual.
We have some extreme examples in the Bible of what it looks like to love our enemies. Stephen, as he’s being stoned and murdered by the religious leaders, asks God not to hold their sin against them before he dies. Jesus Himself is the ultimate example of this, not insulting those who insulted Him and beat Him, but staying silent, and trusting Himself to God. But, young Jesus shows us a much more common and everyday way we as believers can love our enemies!
This is the only account in Scripture we have of Jesus’ childhood, and in it we see Him showing love and respect for 3 authorities in His life: the scribes, His parents, and His Father. It’s amazing that Jesus chooses to listen and learn from the scribes, considering that they would be some of His worst enemies during His public ministry years later. And then, even though He was in the right for obeying His Father in Heaven over His parents, He doesn’t disrespect or argue with them when they question Him, but lovingly goes back to Nazareth with them, and lives under their direction from there on out.
Sometimes, loving our enemies won’t look as drastic as forgiving someone as they murder you like Stephen, or even something like blessing someone who’s insulting you. Jesus, even as a kid, shows us that loving our enemies can just look like taking the time to listen and learn from them, as He did with the scribes who would eventually oppose and kill Him, or responding gently and kindly when someone questions us for doing the will of God! When we love our enemies in the small, everyday things as well as the bigger and more serious things, we act more and more like children of God, our Father!
- We must be about our Father’s business in the world, by following Jesus’ example in loving our enemies, whether that looks like returning prayer for persecution, blessing for curses, or just listening to them and learning from them, responding in gentleness and kindness when unbelievers question us!