Thursday, March 15, 2012

Love your enemies?!?

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
(Matthew 5:44, ESV)

A few days ago I confessed to you that I had some passages of Scripture that challenged me.  I confessed to you that this verse is one of those verses that rubbed against the grain in my life.  If you are serious in any way about your desire to follow Jesus, then I suspect that this verse has at one time or another caused you to pause.

I teach a word study group at St Paul.  Tonight we studied the different uses of the Greek words that are translated into English as "love" in our Bibles.  Two of the significant Greek words are agape and phileo.  Phileo means brotherly love, and agape means unconditional love.  Throughout the New Testament, each time one of these words are used in the original language, they are translated as "love" in English.  So, it is not explicitly known which word is used when as we read our Bibles.

You've heard Philadelphia called the "city of brotherly love."  It comes from the Greek word phileo. This word is a lightweight when it is juxtapose to agape.  Agape has been described as unconditional love.  While in college at the University of Pittsburgh, I heard a preacher liken this type of unconditional love to the love that a parent has for a child.  There is nothing that the child has to do to earn the love of his or her parents.  In fact, there are many things that the child does that would threaten that love.  The baby makes messes; the baby cries at times parents try to sleep; the child is selfish.  But in spite of all of these characteristics, the parents love that baby just because the baby breathes.  That is unconditional love.  I first heard this 20 years ago, and I have never forgotten this illustration.  It is so true.

With all of this in mind, which of these Greek words do you think is used in the verse above?  Are we to love our enemies with a "brotherly love" or are we to love our enemies with an "unconditional love"?  Surprisingly, the word that is used here is agape!  The love that we have for our enemies is love that is unconditional and a love that has no strings attached.  How will you love your enemies and those who persecute you today with a love that is unconditional?


  1. Thanks for this message - I needed it. Another great example of "unconditional" love is the love a puppy or dog has for his owners. - Ken

  2. Why is this message so easy to understand but yet so hard to do?? This is a big struggle for me. - Tonya

    1. Maybe it's just because you are just plain mean :) I hope this is the Tonya I think it is - if not, please accept my apology :) - Ken.