by Ed Elliott
In Luke 6, Jesus tells us that if we love our enemies and those who persecute and do evil to us, we will be rewarded by God.
“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:35–36
What is the “great reward” we shall receive as a result of loving our enemies? Could the reward be that our enemies become our brothers and sisters in Christ? The early church had no greater enemy than the Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus who would later be known as the Apostle Paul. He almost destroyed the early church, he had believers arrested, and even executed.
Persecution is a great indicator that the people persecuting you are seeing Jesus in you.
Paul had a divine encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. I am sure he thought at that moment God was going to strike him down for killing God’s children. Jesus never brought up the fact Paul had killed His followers, in fact, Jesus asked Paul “why are you persecuting me?” We need to understand that when our enemies persecute us, it isn’t “us” that is being persecuted, it is who lives in us and He is showing Himself strong on our behalf. Persecution is a great indicator that the people persecuting you are seeing Jesus in you.
Then Jesus said to Paul, “isn’t it hard to kick against the pricks?” Jesus was telling Paul, it must be exhausting for you to travel all these places trying to stop my church from growing when it keeps springing up all over. In a polite way, Jesus was telling Paul you are wasting your time, you will never kill or arrest all of my children because they are being born again faster than you can kill them and send them to Heaven.
Paul fully expected to feel the wrath of God come down on him so hard that all that would be left of him would be a pile of ashes. Jesus never reminded Saul/Paul of his sins because all his sins had been forgiven at the cross and God promised to never remember his sins again.
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
So what was the reward?
Paul has an encounter with a God he did not know, and Jesus loved, and did good to one of His biggest enemies, and persecutors His church had ever faced. So what was the reward? It was Paul’s salvation where all of heaven rejoiced. It was brought about by love and Paul testifies that it was God’s love that saved him.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3–7
There is no greater reward
The wonderful thing about existing in God’s love is when faced with persecution and people who choose to be your enemies. You know how to treat them and you protect your heart from bitterness and anger by flowing in His love towards them. The reward is that love and forgiveness you offer them might be what they need to encounter to see the Jesus their heart yearns for but does not know. There is no greater reward than to see anyone come to know Jesus but sometimes it is even sweeter when it was someone who had been your enemy.
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