Edwards and Strachan: Love Our Enemies

“Christ denied himself to help us, though we are not able to recompense him; so we should be willing to lay out ourselves to help our neighbor freely, expecting nothing again. Christ loved us, and was kind to us and was willing to relieve us, though we were very hateful persons, of an evil disposition, not deserving any good, but deserving only to be hated, and treated with indignation; so we should be willing to be kind to those that are an ill sort of person, of a hateful disposition, and that are very undeserving. Christ loved us, and laid himself out to relieve us, though we were his enemies, hated him, had an ill spirit towards him, had treated him ill; so, as we would love Christ as he hath loved us, should {we love those who are our enemies, hate us, have an ill spirit toward us, and have treated us ill}.”

-Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733.

“It isn’t hard to say that we’re Christians. If we keep the definition vague, the shoe seems to fit. We go to church, do what we’re supposed to do at work, and write a check once in a while to a worthy cause. With this low threshold, the faith doesn’t seem all that challenging; it fits comfortably into a typical American lifestyle, and we experience little discomfort.

But when we dig into the priorities of true Christianity, that laxness seems woefully deficient. The standard of Christ is not simply to love people who love us back, or to love humanity in a general sense. The standard of Christ is to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Such teachings present us with a major challenge. It’s no easy thing to love someone who acts hatefully toward us. Our every instinct runs away from love in such situations.

Christianity brings about a quiet revolution in the human heart. One of its chief effects is to awaken a full range of compassion and kindness to the people we encounter. Faith grabs hold of the truly repentant, and upends us, making friends of those who once were enemies. “Christ loved us” when we “hated him.”

Now, God gives us the strength, the otherworldly ability, to emulate our Savior and love those who despise us. Few practices are more challenging—or more revealing of the authenticity of our faith.”

‘If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.’ (Romans 5:10)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands, Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 167.

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