Loving your enemies is not a condition of sonship

I’ve heard it said that when Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-45, “ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven”, He meant that unless you love your enemies etc. then you will essentially be proving that you are not Children of God. Or, to put it another way, loving your enemies like this is a condition of sonship.

I would point out to these people that this kind of love is a fruit, not a condition of entry, or a qualification. Salvation – and thereby membership of the Family of God – is a free gift to all – all! – who are willing to receive it.

People who write stuff like that use the Bible versions that phrase Jesus’s words like this: “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” or “Then you will be children of your father in heaven”. They use it to imply that that this is a condition of us being children of God. That, unless you do love your enemies, there’s no way you’re a child of God.

These people need to be careful that their words do not lead their weaker brethren into condemnation!

You see, I believe that this passage means that by loving your enemies, you will be aligning yourself with the way the Father thinks. You will be acting like a member of His family. In other words, it’s not a condition of sonship, rather a fruit of sonship. Something that happens because you are His son or daughter.

And, like all fruits of the Spirit, it will be manifested in increasing measure in those who believe – not necessarily an overnight transformation, then, but a gradual process. So, don’t feel condemned or unworthy because you don’t feel like that. In fact it’s not a feeling at all.

Certainly, no-one who finds it hard to love their enemies should feel that struggling with this issue disqualifies them from sonship. Someone who is not a child of God would not even be trying to love their enemies in response to Jesus…..

Glad that’s been cleared up, then.

Finally, you might like to look at this short essay on a similar subject. Here’s one lady’s experience of what happens when she chooses to follow Jesus’s way and pray for her enemy: Here’s the link

4 thoughts on “Loving your enemies is not a condition of sonship

  1. Tony, I’ve been enjoying reading over your blogs, and am happy to see so many thoughts in them that have been rising within me also.

    As I mentioned to you before, I have returned to Jesus after a long stint in Buddhism, and have been working to sort out the whys of it all.
    You said something in this blog that has helped me enormously:

    “You will be acting like a member of His family. In other words, it’s not a condition of sonship, rather a fruit of sonship. Something that happens because you are His son or daughter.
    And, like all fruits of the Spirit, it will be manifested in increasing measure in those who believe – not necessarily an overnight transformation, then, but a gradual process.”

    This simple but powerful statement helped to give me an even deeper understanding of why I left Buddhism for Jesus.

    In my whole time in Buddhism I felt like I was struggling to live up to what a “good” Buddhist should be. I loved the teachings on being a “Bodhisattva”, someone who has such a deep love for all living beings that they will devote their life to finding a way to set them free of all pain and suffering. And I really wanted to be such a person!
    What I didn’t like, and constantly had problems with , was all of the teachings on how such a person would behave and struggling to make sure I was generating such behavior.
    It was also quite common to watch other practitioners and to be watched in return in order to see where we were falling short.
    We were to understand that this was to always be done with the best of intention, but it never felt that way! Instead, I was always left feeling that I was struggling to live up to a standard that I thought should be arising naturally from that Bodhisattva desire.

    I returned to Jesus because of a memory from my childhood of how natural it felt to be around Him, and how easy the feelings of caring for others arose within me as i was. There really is no struggle when we abide with Him, and the fruits of His Spirit come so easy when we do!

    The funny thing is that I now realize that there are huge numbers of Christians who have found themselves battling with the same feelings of legalism and conditional behavior in the Church as I was experiencing in Buddhism!
    I’m beginning to understand that this conditional behavior trap is everywhere, wherever there are people who are truly seeking to find their way in life. I would say that even atheists encounter it, because in the end they are just another seeker looking to find their way, but trying to do it without God.

    I really do think that there are a lot of people in this world who would love to embrace the idea of a relationship with a Living God, but who fear that it will mean a return to the institutions that have always demanded conditional behavior from them.
    We need to show these people that Jesus has never asked that. That instead his message is to just come to Him and He will do the rest!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Dennis. Really interesting to read them; I was especially fascinated – and somewhat surprised – to read that there are what we might call ‘legalism police’ in Buddhism as well. This surprises me because I would have thought that in Buddhism, where as far as I understand it, there are not the same sorts of ‘fixed Rules’ as Christians like to think they have, still there are those who monitor the morality of others. I would therefore have expected that Buddhism, of all the faiths, would be the one which didn’t have those people. Also I think you are right about atheists; they too have a reasonably set belief system (there is no god) and to challenge that status quo invites ostracism from the group.

      And finally about the religious organisations who spoil it for the true seekers. I think they seem to radiate the feeling of conditionality, thus alienating the very people they are supposed to be blessing. There is irony there, I believe.

      You may also be interested in my series on the Stages of Spiritual Growth; you may find something in there that jives with your faith walk so far. Look on the right of the blog pages and you will find a drop-down list of the series on this blog.

      Thanks again for your interesting comment!

      1. Yes, Tony, I had the same Ideas about Buddhism being more open and accepting than other religions to begin with. That was a big factor in my choosing to be a Buddhist.
        It was very surprising to discover from the inside that although Buddhists are in general more quiet about it, Buddhism has many denominations within it that divide them, even to the point that some are regarded as not really being Buddhists!
        And there are many different understandings of what you would think are even the most basic principles and teachings.
        It is also very common in Buddhism, as in most religions, to declare that your teacher as being the one with the most correct understanding.

        Today, at this very moment, there are countries that say they are Buddhist who are engaged in power struggles and persecution of non-Buddhist minorities!

        I’m really not exaggerating when I say that I discovered in Buddhism most, if not all, of the same behaviours that kept me away from Christian churches for most of my life.

        This has lead me to understand that binding ourselves and others to legalism and conditional behaviour is a very common human condition that brings great damage to any path we seek to follow, whether secular, or religious.
        And it is the greatest thing that stands in our way of truly experiencing the true nature of both God and Jesus!

        I’m planning to have a lot more to say on this topic in the future.

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