The Why of the Choice
Jesus did not tell his followers to love their enemies because love would or would not work. The idea probably never occurred to him to raise the question of whether or not it was practical. He told them that they should do it so “that they might be sons of their Father in heaven” (Mt 5:44-45). It was quite evident from the sun and the rain that the Father didn’t limit his love to those who loved him and obeyed him (Mt 5:38-39), and it was to be expected that the Son should partake of the Father’s nature. This course of conduct would flow as naturally from them as it would from the Jesus. Being what he is, God can’t help loving all men, regardless of what they are. And this is so with his sons. Their nature is not determined by the reaction of their enemies, but by their relationship to the Father. So in a way Christians are completely at the mercy of their enemies, since by their complete surrender to the divine will they no longer have the freedom to cease being what they are, sons of their Father in heaven made in his image and likeness. Bound by this higher loyalty, the argument of practicality is irrelevant to them. They do not for the sake of convenience set aside their nature, anymore than a minnow transforms itself into a bird when in danger of being swallowed by a bass.
Of course, one does not have to be a son of God. It is purely a voluntary matter, though the choice is the difference between life and death. Yet if one does choose to become a son of the Father, then one of the conditions is that you “love the outsiders and pray for those who try to do you in.” Hate is a denial of sonship, because the Father not having it in his own nature, never transmits it to his offspring. If one confines his love to his own circle, he identifies himself not with God, who loves universally, but with the racketeers and pagans, who limit their love to those who love them (Mt 5:46).
How long, O Lord, how long?