Ernest Gordon was a prisoner of war for three years during World War II. He was in one of the most infamous Japanese camps—the work camp on the River Kwai. He describes his lowest point:
I was headed for the Death House. I was so ill that I didn’t much care. But I was hardly prepared for what I found there.
The Death House had been built at one of the lowest points of the camp. The monsoon was on, and, as a result, the floor of the hut was a sea of mud. And there were the smells: tropical ulcers eating into flesh and bone; latrines overflowed; unwashed men, untended men, sick men, humanity gone sour, humanity rotting.…This was the lowest level of life. (Ryken, 267–268)
During his imprisonment, Gordon, with the help of some Christians, became a Christian himself. They read the Bible together. He says,
We had learned from the gospels that Jesus had his enemies just as we had ours. But there was this difference: he loved his enemies. He prayed for them. Even as the nails were being hammered through his hands and feet, he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We hated our enemies. We could see how wonderful it was that Jesus forgave in this way. Yet for us to do the same seemed beyond our attainment. (Ryken, 267–268)
In Luke 6:27-36, Jesus lays down a definition of love—radical love that goes beyond what most people would ever want to think about.
As a result, Christians tend to either ignore this passage or soften it somehow. The minute someone says, “love your enemies,” someone else is right there to list the exceptions. This isn’t something to joke about either—don’t say, “I do love my enemies, I love them to death.”
Certainly, there are cases where we should stand against evil. But I don’t want us to miss what Jesus is saying here about radical love, so don’t worry about finding the exceptions.
Listen to Jesus…this is Jesus speaking here. Be the person who hears him. Don’t you want to be like him? Don’t you want to obey him? Then take the time to listen to the Savior.