Believe it or not, some Christians keep a list of people who can be righteously hated and even put to death, in spite of Jesus’ commands to love our enemies and bless those who hate us.
Usually, those who fall into this exceptional category are criminals, terrorists, enemies of the state, homosexuals, and abortionists.
Frankly, many Christians have their own private list of who can be/should be put to death. It might be an ex-spouse, a person who abused them in the past, a drunk driver who took away their loved one, or the umpire who blew the call that ended their team’s chances at a national championship.
It should be obvious to anyone who knows the Gospel of Christ that there are no exemptions when it comes to the commands to love our enemies, bless those who hate us, and do good to those who seek to harm us. None whatsoever.
That means God loves all the same people that you really hate. He loves those people you wish were dead. He loves those people that hurt you and ripped you off. He loves everyone in prison, no matter what they did to get there. He loves the people who got away with murder, and the people who helped them get away with it.
Now, that doesn’t mean that God loves what they did, or what they do. Far from it. In fact, it’s because he “so loved the world” that he sent Jesus in the first place. Because he saw how horrific we all were without His love, and he sent Jesus to show us what it really looks like – and feels like – to receive that love. He sent Jesus to transform us through His love, and to rescue us from the penalty of a life without His love.
This means that those terrorists you’d like to see burned alive are within reach of God’s grace. Why destroy them before they have an opportunity to know Christ who can transform their hearts?
It reminds me of Jesus’ own disciples who asked “Shall we call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” in reference to a Samaritan village that refused to have Jesus travel through it on his way to Jerusalem. The response Jesus gave to these disciples is the same as what he would say to Christians today who yearn to rain down destruction on anyone: “You do not know what kind of Spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (John 9:54-56)
Loving our enemies is hard, of course. Our old nature is quick to crave violence and retribution. But Jesus has given us a new nature and a new spirit.
If we really hope to love our enemies, we have to first admit that we do not have access to this kind of love. This sort of unconditional love is just not in us by nature. The closest we can ever come is the love a parent has for a child. But even that example (as profound as it may be) falls short of the extravagant love that God wants to fill us with.
God’s love just “is”. It’s not dependent upon anything the person does or does not do. And that’s why Jesus can tell us that, if we are abiding in Him, and if He is alive in us, then we will be connected to the constant, eternal flow of Divine Love that flows from the heart of the Trinity and outward into every corner of the Universe. We become conduits of His endless love and therefore everyone around us becomes illuminated in the light of His unconditional love.
And if we are indeed carriers of Christ-like love, then we cannot shoot anyone in the face. We cannot even wish that anyone were dead. We cannot cheer when someone receives the harsh judgment we believe they deserve.Even God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked:
“As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)
Jesus leaves us no wiggle room here. He loves everyone, and He commands us to love everyone as well.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:43-48)
Those people you hate? God loves them and He wants you to love them, too.
To be a follower of Jesus is to obey His commands. If we struggle with those commands, we must throw ourselves at His feet and beg Him for the grace to love as He loves, forgive as He forgives, and serve others as He serves us.
Love is our tattoo. Love is our song. Love is how Jesus, and everyone else, knows that we belong to Him.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Keith Giles is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” and he also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast. He lives in Orange, CA with his wife and two sons.