There’s something you should know about John Piper’s newest book, Love Your Enemies: there’s a good chance that it wasn’t written for you. This is not a popular-level work, unlike Piper’s more well-known literary accomplishments like Desiring God and Don’t Waste Your Life. But don’t let that deter you. This is a book that’s worth the read and contains lots of good insights into what may be Jesus’ most difficult command to follow. You just have to work for it a little harder.
This review will function a little differently than my others, due to time constraints. So I’m going to give a brief overview of the book here and share some thoughts, and discuss it in greater detail in future posts.
Piper’s aim with this book was to show that Jesus’ command to love our enemies is grounded in the early church’s tradition–that the former teaching was passed down from Jesus to his followers, who in turn preserved it in their teachings. Piper shows this by first examining some of the non-gospel passages, such as Romans 12, that exhort Christians to bless their enemies and not curse them. I wasn’t aware that there was any doubt that the church’s understanding of the matter was derived from Jesus’ teachings, but if you think there is, then I suggest Piper’s book. (Again, be prepared to find a more scholarly defense here than in his other books.)
The book looks at other viewpoints on loving one’s enemy at the time of Jesus and includes Seneca and Epictetus as the Hellinistic thinkers; the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha; Philo; Josephus and relevant passages from the Old Testament. Piper also shows how Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies is connected with his teachings on the kingdom of God and how this command was taken up by Paul and Peter.
This isn’t an exhaustive review, and for those who are feeling up for an academic challenge, I’d suggest that you pick this up.