“But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 GNT)
“Had Jesus only told us to love our brethren, we might have misunderstood what he meant by love, but now he leaves us in no doubt whatever as to his meaning.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Jesus is absolutely relentless in pushing the standards of the law to a higher level—in truth, the level at which they’ve always been in the kingdom of heaven. In this case, he speaks about the law of love, insisting it must be a love that is extraordinary and remarkable.
He calls us, Bonhoeffer notes, to a sacrificial love where we love our enemies in exactly the same way we love our friends. Yet Bonhoeffer adds, “By our enemies Jesus means those who are quite intractable and utterly unresponsive to our love, who forgive us nothing when we forgive them all, who requite our love with hatred and our service with derision.”
Our enemies may reject our love; they may waste our love, discount our love, and react angrily to our love. They may never understand our love or even be changed through our love. Yet Jesus calls us to love them without these guarantees. In doing this, he is calling us to become more like him: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).
Bonhoeffer notes this is the kind of love that asks nothing in return. It is a love that needs no “because.” God doesn’t give us his love because of something we’ve done; he doesn’t give us his love because of something he might gain; he doesn’t give us his love because we deserve it.
He just gives his love—because.
This devotional is based on my book, Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship’.