One of the questions I posed recently, while preaching on loving our enemies from Matthew 5:44, was, How do you love the people who kidnap you and then kill you?
How can we do this? Where does power to love like this come from? Just think how astonishing this is when it appears in the real world! Could anything show the truth and power and reality of Christ more than this?
I believe Jesus gives us the key to this radical, self-sacrificing love in the very same chapter.
In Matthew 5:11–12, he again talks about being persecuted. What is remarkable about these verses is that Jesus says that you are able not only to endure the mistreatment of the enemy, but rejoice in it. This seems even more beyond our reach. If I could do this — if I could rejoice in being persecuted — then it would be possible to love my persecutors. If the miracle of joy in the midst of the horror of injustice and pain and loss could happen, then the miracle of love for the perpetrators could happen too.
Jesus gives the key to joy in these verses. He says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” The key to joy is faith in God’s future grace — “your reward is great in heaven.” I believe this joy is the freeing power to love our enemies when they persecute us. If that is true, then the command to love is a command to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth (Colossians 3:2).
The command to love our enemy is a command to find our hope and our satisfaction in God and his great reward — his future grace. The key to radical love is faith in future grace. We must be persuaded in the midst of our agony that the love of God is “better than life” (Psalm 63:3). Loving your enemy doesn’t earn you the reward of heaven. Treasuring the reward of heaven empowers you to love your enemy.