In the early hours of the morning, five drug dealers kidnapped Buster Soaries and drove him to a vacant lot. They dragged him out of the car and jammed a shotgun in his face, a .45 to the back of his head, and a rifle in his side. Just as they were about to do him in, the driver noticed a police car parked on a nearby highway. Afraid that the police would investigate the gunfire, they forced Buster back into the car. Nearly five hours later, their gang lord ordered the kidnappers to let him go. They made it clear to Buster that they would get him later.
Talk about enemies! Buster had every reason to hate those guys. And he resolved to get even with them in a way that probably would have landed him in death row. But God had a different path in mind—one that involved salvation instead of incarceration.
Buster encountered Jesus and began to learn what it means to live by His ways, not the ways of the street. On the street, payback is king. But Jesus taught something completely opposed to the idea of avenging our enemies. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-36).
If you think His take on love is extreme, you’re right. And Jesus lived out exactly what He preached. Jesus had a lot of opportunities to hate and destroy His enemies. But He loved them instead. The most incredible example was displayed when He was brutally crucified for something He did not do. He prayed for the men who were crucifying Him, even while they were doing it! He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
I think Jesus made it clear that He didn’t want a bunch of vigilante Christians running around trying to give our enemies a dose of their own wickedness. When I say “enemy,” I’m not just talking about the guy who used your stolen credit card for a shopping spree. Enemies can be our bosses, parents, spouses, or even our own children, and sometimes, they are the hardest to love.
Jesus calls us to be really different—to return grace for hurt, mercy in the face of malignancy, and kindness for cruelty. And this requires absolute faith in God’s promise found in Romans 12:19: “For it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” In essence, we have to “chill out” because the Lord is saying, “Don’t worry; I’ve got your back.”
Several years after the attempted murder, Buster–who, by the way, is the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey–encountered one of his kidnappers in a crowd at Madison Square Garden. He stood there, stunned as he looked into the eyes of the man who had once held a gun to the back of his head. Once again, fear washed over his heart. But what did he do? He went over to his enemy and shocked the guy by hugging him! He told him he loved him, and said that if he needed anything he would be happy to help him. Because of Jesus’ example, Buster had the power to embrace a man who once wanted to kill him.
Buster followed “the Jesus way” when it came to dealing with his enemies. Will you?
- Spend some time journaling about your philosophy of love. How does it compare with what Jesus taught about loving people who hurt and mistreat us?
- Meditate on the text in Luke 6:27-28 and Romans 12:14-21. What do you think will happen if you follow these instructions?
- Make a list of the enemies in your life—people who need to experience your love and forgiveness. Commit to praying for these people once a week.