Love Thine Enemy

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father, which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

— Matthew 5:43-48

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.” “Love your enemies, and ye shall be the children of the highest.” It is the divine glory to forgive. Yet will a time come when the Unchangeable will cease to forgive; when it will not more belong to his perfection to love his enemies; when he will look calmly, and his children look calmly too, upon the everlasting torments of our brothers and sisters?

O brother, believe it not, lest it quench forgiveness in thee, and thou be not forgiven, but go down with those thy brothers to the torment; whence, if God were not better than that phantom some callest God, thou shouldst never come out; but whence assuredly thou shalt come out when thou hast paid the uttermost farthing; when thou hast learned of God in hell what thou didst refuse to learn of him upon the gentle-toned earth: the story of him who was mighty to save, because he was perfect in love.

O Father, thou art All-in-all, perfect beyond the longing of thy children, and we are all and altogether thine. Thou wilt make us pure and loving and free. We shall stand fearless in thy presence, infinite in the love of each other, because perfect in thy love. Lord Jesus, let the heart of a child be given to us, that so we may arise from the grave of our dead selves and die no more, but see face to face the God of the Living. 

Commentary

It is the Divine Glory to Forgive

by Dave Roney

Man is a triune being composed of a physical self, an intellectual self, and a spiritual self, and these three go together to produce the soul, which is the person in entirety; in all creation man is unique in this tri-fold composition.  The soul, or man in his totality, very much speaks to us of the Trinity, which is the sum of the interrelated Persons of God forming the One God, the I AM.  This composition of man is, then, neither accidental nor incidental because man is created in the image of triune God

When we speak of the “Glory” of God, what thought occurs to us? And how do we define this Glory?  Do we think of His gleaming and blinding physical appearance?  Or do we think of this Glory as of Holiness, which is not a physical thing to be seen?  Or do we think of it as the great Mind, which only thinks righteous thoughts and does Just things?  The Glory of God is not found in any outward appearances, to be sure, these are Effects; nor is the Glory of God due to His great character or power; these are, as relates to Glory, all Effects which rise up from a Cause, and the Cause of the Glory of God, in any of its varied forms, is located within the very Heart of God.

This Glory of God reveals itself in various forms of manifestation, from the glory which wells up inside His children and causes them unspeakable and unutterable delight, to a Moses who can only look at the Glory from the back as it passes away from him, to the Glory of the Transfiguration, to the Glory which shone round about shepherds tending their flocks (though the Source of the glory, apparently carried in the bosom of angels, remained unseen), to the glory which shows in creatures such as the angel before whom John fell down as one dead: These are all different aspects of the Glory, showing different features and characteristics of it, but never showing the Glory in its exhaustive fullness.  You might say that the absolute and pure Glory of God is revealed in Christ Jesus, but even that would be to gloss over what the Glory of God is, except we think of the Why in Christ, of what it is in Him which justifies such a claim.  For, the Glory of God revealed in Jesus is Glory only for cause, and we must think concerning this: For what cause does the Glory of God find its perfect and therefore highest resolution in Christ Jesus?

Here, for the restrictions of space, I must abbreviate and condense my comments, explaining them in overview form.  No Old Testament saint had known God fully, had thus only seen occasional flashes of what that Glory was; no man had ever seen Him, had not even been able to imagine what God is truly like; the Only Begotten Son revealed God so effulgently as to be able to declare that if men saw Him they also saw the Father, declared He and the Father were “one;” expressed what is in the Bosom from which He came truly by His every word and deed, showed men by life, ministry, and death exactly Who and What the Father IS.  We are now approaching very near to what the Glory of God is in its fullness, but we are not yet there; more must be understood.  Thus far, if we accept these things about Christ, we are only showing how Christ is identical to God His Father.  But this does not explain to us what is the essential, fullest, deepest, Glory of the Father.

I will tell you a terrible thing.  The Glory of God is not first and foremost to be seen or understood in the trappings of His glory, whatever form that Glory may take; such displays are but the outer garments of Glory.  The Glory of God is fully revealed only in the unplumbed depths of deepest humility, in indescribable horror and suffering, in the writhing form of the cruciform Son of God and Son of Man pinioned to a cross, naked, hated, abused, tortured, spat upon, mocked and ridiculed, friendless, helpless, innocent, dying willingly as the greatest Friend to those who were enemies to Him.  The Glory issues through the parched lips “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!”  

Would you hear the words describing God's ultimate Glory?  Then listen to the Apostle: “Father, the hour has come; Glorify your Son that the Son may Glorify you (John 17:1), and the agony of the undiminished Glory continues; “And now, Father, Glorify me in Your Own presence with the Glory that I had with You before the world existed” (verse 5).  How is God and Christ glorified?  By Atonement, by Christ crucified.  Before the world existed?  It is that same Glory of “the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.”  And yet, even this does not fully say to us what is the Glory of God; we must go further.

The “why” question must now be addressed: Why did the sufferings of Christ perfectly show the Glory of God, more so than any other thing which He said or did, and why could no other means or method do this?  It is because of what lies at the heart of and is core to God's Glory: It is Love, pure and unmixed, rising above the cesspit of creaturely condition, and is the outward display, or effect, of an inner cause; the molten radiance and blinding light emitting from the great furnace of the Heart which is the Consuming Fire, the Fire being the Divine Love of God.   The full manifestation of the Glory of God is discovered only in His great Love; for God, you see, IS Love.  The greatest Glory of God is when His children look full into His Face and say “I love You even as You love me!”  His greatest Glory is when His children become the true image of His Son. 

His greatest Glory is not some selfish and self-centered attribute which would stun and overwhelm men!  Nor is the glory of God that of some Divine peacock, with dazzling show, striking fearful awe in men, proudly shooting forth blinding glitz, as though of some ostentatious bird preening, impressing, demonstrating an inarguable principle of superiority, causing men to fall back from Him, fall on their faces, feel inferior to Him, but is the eternally selfless and self-forgetting nature of His Love, manifested to us in its highest and most glorious form; that discovered in His atoning Son Jesus.  “It is the Divine Glory to forgive,” says MacDonald, and Divine forgiving is itself an Effect which depends on a Cause; it is the product and result of the Divine Love.  The first act of Love is the giving of attention; the Love-child of this attention is desire for the best of another person, and we cannot extend such a desire except we first forgive, even as we have been eternally forgiven.  

In 2 Peter 1:4 we read (and I abbreviate) “And because of His GLORY...[we] share His Divine nature...”  There are portions of Himself that He cannot share, His Incommunicable Attributes (such as Eternality, Omniscience, and Immutability); yet He freely shares with us His Communicable Attributes (Love, Patience, Goodness and Humility, for instance).  What is the chief thing within His Divine nature which He shares?  It is His Glory.  And what is the very heart of this Glory?  It is to love and forgive.  And whom does He first love, His friends or His enemies?  It is His enemies; for every man who sins is first at enmity with Him, and remains so until He, by His great Love and Forgiveness, reconciles such ones to Himself.  This is the burden of God and the example to men, for no man is utterly without friend in the world, and not every man is turned against any particular man; but God must, from the first sin in the world, set about His business of reconciliation.  He first loves and forgives those who are His enemies and makes them His friends.

Imagine the Glory of God did He not first love and forgive; He would be a dreadful god, and the glory of such a god would, indeed, be that of the preening peacock.  We must love and forgive our neighbors even as does our God.  Our “neighbor” is every person with whom we have contact, and extends even to the entire world including those with whom we have no contact.  This is God's glory; it is also ours.  And even as He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, which is His greatest Glory, so also we must be in our world doing the works of our Father and His Son.  And our greatest test will not be found in love for friend, but foe.  It is the love of the crucified One, and the Father Who sent Him into the world.  The haunting words of the Master return; “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  And by this we share in the Divine Nature and highest Glory of our Father.