Submission and Obedience


What did Jesus mean when He said we are to love our enemies? He taught this important 'must-do' early in His ministry. But what did He mean when He commanded us to do it?

To know and to BECOME in order to obey Jesus' command, we need to bear in our heart:

  1. the awfulness of hell, and
  2. the worth of a soul.

The Awfulness of Hell

Today's world uses the word 'hell' as a curse word or slang. Perhaps 50 percent or more of even the Christian world does not believe in hell or doesn't know what it's all about...and certainly does not seem to fear it. Few preach about hell anymore. It's a topic to avoid at all costs!

At best, people believe that the devil, portrayed as a guy in a wet suit with horns on his head, a forked tail and a spear in his hand, runs a place of torture and banishment somewhere below the surface of the earth called hell. All bad people go there, but only ones "who are worse than us" deserve it and go there.

Jesus never portrayed hell like that. In Luke 16 He told a story that does not read like a parable. He told a true account of some unidentified rich Jew and a poor beggar, Lazarus. The rich man lived sumptuously, while the beggar desired even crumbs from the rich man's table to survive.

When the beggar died, he was carried by angels to Paradise called Abraham's bosom, where he would await the resurrection of sincere believers in God. The rich man died and was buried. That's all the detail Jesus said about his death. His earthly remains were interred and his soul went to Hades, a place of torment. BUT--he could look across a great divide, and on the other side he saw Lazarus at peace in Abraham's bosom.

The torment of hell must be awful, because the rich man cried out to Abraham, "Please send Lazarus to me with a drop or two of water to cool my tongue, because I'm in agony in this fire!"

Fire! Flames! Heat! Searing pain! One of the first things we teach a toddler is to avoid fire: don't touch the hot stove, don't play with matches, don't spill Daddy's hot coffee!! Fire hurts. But fire also purifies. Cleanses. Eradicates. Changes substances. All those good effects the rich man had avoided from God's hand during his lifetime. His character could have been changed, but it wasn't. Instead, he was in the heat of unquenched flames! So he cried for water!

Abraham replied, "Remember--remember! Think back to when you could have helped Lazarus. You had it made. Lazarus racked up trouble and pain and you did nothing to relieve his suffering, while you enjoyed more than enough of everything. Dogs had to lick his sores, because you did not offer to wash them. You did not feed him. You did not shelter him from the sun or wind. Now he is being comforted and you are the one who is suffering."

"You asked that he come to you with water. Don't you see there's a chasm, a great chasm with NO BRIDGE? Although Lazarus would bring help to you if he could, he cannot. There is no way he can reach you. And, by the same token, you cannot come here for relief from your suffering, either. It is too late."

What finality! Only what's done on earth counts for eternity! Good or bad.

The rich man was desperate. He had enough concern to ask another favor of Abraham: "Please send Lazarus to my father's house. I have five brothers. Have him warn them not to come to this place of torment. They live like I lived...for the moment...for what they want and love, not for anyone else. Certainly not for God or Jesus. Please warn them before it's too late!"

To that Abraham simply replied, "They have the word of God and plenty of Bibles available. They have churches scattered all over the land. They have television programs and preachers, Bible teachers, evangelists, singers, musicians, Bible schools and colleges, Christian books by the thousands, satellite dishes, videos DVDs, you name it. If they want to know how to go to heaven like Lazarus did, they can listen to the Gospel and be saved."

Inferred by the text, the rich man said, "But they won't pay attention to those anymore than I did. In fact, they make fun of a lot of it. I did! They're so busy doing their thing they couldn't care less about reading a Christian book or listening to a Gospel podcast. They need someone to get right in their faces and shake them up. Send someone to them who has died and come back to life again. I know they'll believe him! Then they'll repent!"

Despite the desperation of the man's plea, Abraham answered, "If they don't listen to truth or seek it out with all that's at their fingertips, they won't listen to a man who says he has come back from the dead. They'll merely write him off as a nut and insist he have a psychiatric evaluation. He'll be vilified over TV newscasts and social media. Your brothers must decide for themselves, just as you did."

Jesus' account abbreviated the description of hell and its awfulness. However, He gave a clear picture of the physical and emotional suffering every person in hell feels every moment for the rest of eternity, which is forever! And, above all, He showed that hell is separation from good and all that is holy. The great chasm defines memory and a sinner's clear recollection of who and what he lost because he did not choose Christ. The chasm frustrates his desire to correct things, if only he could! But he can't--eternally!

All the bad influence he had on other people who would likely join him in hell in the near future haunted him..."warn my brothers!" Essentially, the rich man used his influence to help damn other souls as well as his own. Once in hell, he was overwhelmed with the desire to help others avoid what he did not, but it was too late!

Worst of all, he experienced separation from God and all that is holy and pure. The chasm. The chasm! Memory let him envision what the holy side is like, but it's impossible in hell ever to hear the voice of God again or to know conviction for sin and the ability to repent and realize the joy of forgiveness! Impossible to cross over from sin to righteousness, from lostness to being found. Memory of the hymns and spiritual songs, sermons, Bible passages, prayers of godly men and women...all indelibly impressed on his memory, but impossible to retrace and do differently! In hell there is no bridge back to the beginning, only despair. Jesus WAS the bridge during earthly life, but there's no bridge in hell!

If we truly believe hell is all that and so much worse, we do not want ANYONE, friend or foe, to go there. Unending, unrelenting separation from God and His voice, comfort and peace is what HELL IS. It was created by God for the devil and his demons, not for people. Yet people choose to go there in large part because no one tells them what it's really like and who God really is!

The Value of a Human Soul

Though it's very important to have a right and correct concept of hell, it is a must also to love and appreciate the value of a human soul. God created Adam and Eve. This is a foundational truth not to be doubted: God IS the Creator of humankind and the entire universe!!!

It is He who made man, not Darwin or a tadpole crawling from some swamp. God created two genders. Made in His image. Animals do not possess that pedigree. Man alone is able to communicate with God, to see himself apart from God and not as a puppet, but able to be in holy harmony with Him and to carry on discourse heart to heart.

When Adam's voluntary sin broke that communion, man was doomed to death and darkness forever! He forsook the spiritual life with which he was created and endowed, and could not himself buy it back. He had defied the commandment of his Holy Creator. In Genesis 3:15 God, the Merciful Creator, promised a Second Adam who would NOT disobey and would redeem lost mankind with His own blood.

God Himself suffered utmost loss and death in order to give man a way to Himself when all was lost and undone. Height--depth--breadth--length--no matter how you measure the extremes to which God went to redeem humankind, His treasure, it is impossible to comprehend to what degree God expended Himself on our behalf.

Does that give you even a glimpse of how valuable a soul really is? God went to the nth degree to provide salvation for our souls. John 3:16, that well-known and oft-quoted verse, says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish (in hell), but have everlasting life." If God loved you and me that much, us to whom God has extended great, undeserved pardon and forgiveness, doesn't He also love our enemies that much? We who have been forgiven of a debt we could never pay have a debt to forgive our enemies just as we have been forgiven.

That's why when Jesus spoke of forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer He said, "Forgive us our debts, as we ALSO have forgiven our debtors." And, further in that teaching, He said, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."


Elsewhere, in Luke 6 Jesus spoke these strong words:

"But to you who are listening I say: LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU, BLESS THOSE WHO CURSE YOU, PRAY FOR THOSE WHO MISTREAT YOU. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

We must respond out of that same love, not react according to human emotion. We must let our enemies see Jesus in us under pressure, just as Pilate and the Jewish leaders watched Him at His trial. Our enemies deserve that opportunity, in spite of their hatred directed at us in lieu of attacking God directly. We had the opportunity for salvation and received it. We must give our enemies the same opportunity.

When we have a right appraisal and fear of hell and fully embrace the value of a soul, we MUST love our enemies. NO matter how wicked they are and how cruel they may be to us, we can never wish eternity in a godless hell for even one of them. God is their ultimate judge. We are not.

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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®
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