“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 the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. 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.” (Luke 6:27–36)This week I want to continue from where we left off last week and hover over these verses for a bit more. But I want to take a slightly different tack and come at this from maybe what some would say is an unconventional, angle.
I want to look at a related passage in the Book of Revelation. Now, if you’re like me, the moment “Revelation” is mentioned, your eyes roll so far into the back of your head that you can actually see your brain. So, I’m making a promise to those who have suffered religious abuse by the manner in which some have used this book: what I’m about to share will be dramatically different.
What does the Book of Revelation have to show us about the teachings of Jesus, especially the love-your-enemy element? Everything! I’m convinced that unless we embrace the nonviolence of Jesus’ peace teachings, we can never truly begin to understand what the book of Revelation is really all about. (There are two ways to look at Revelation. The most common way over the last fifty years has been to obsess about the meaning and direction of history and to treat Revelation as a series of detailed predictions. I contest that version and argue that Revelation is much more concerned with how to move history in the direction of the Kingdom [and how not to—with which historically, Christianity has, sadly, been quite proficient].) Unless we do this, we have missed the whole point of the book and have ended up doing exactly what it warns us against; but that is an entirely different study for an entirely different time.
Let’s jump in.
What does the Book of Revelation have to do with the love-your-enemy and peace teachings of Jesus? Everything.
There is absolutely no consensus about the seven seals of the Revelation within Christianity today, so what better place to start that right there in Revelation 6 (white horse, red horse, black horse, pale horse). Remember, I promised you that this will be different. Hang in there.
With the breaking of the first seal in verse one, it’s as if all hades breaks loose. There are some (Kuper, Ladd, and Morris) who see this rider on the white horse in verse two as Christ. White, they argue, is always a symbol of Christ, or something associated with Christ, or of spiritual victory. F. A. Jennings rejects this adamantly:
“The whole context and character of these seals absolutely forbid our thinking of this rider being the Lord Jesus, as so many affirm. His reign shall not bring war, famine, and strife in its train.” (Studies in Revelation, p. 201)
But, I want to be quick to add, where many (including Jennings) then interpret this white rider as a false Christ, I want to ask that we stop and first place ourselves in the sandals of the original audience by asking what these images would have brought to their minds. If you were a part of one of the seven churches, who were the originally intended audience of this letter, how would you, back then, have understood these seals? What would you, in your culture, have initially associated with this image we see in this first seal of Revelation? Once we establish that, then maybe we can extrapolate principles that apply to Jesus’ followers in every generation.
But before we get there, let’s return to Luke 6. Any time I present the love-your-enemy chore of the teachings of Jesus (Jesus’ teaching on nonviolence), I am, without fail, met with the objection, “What about the threat of a foreign invasion.” It comes in one of two forms, one more personal: “What would you do if someone broke into your home,” and the other national: “What about national threats today such as Al-Qaida, or what would you have done with Hitler in World War II?” (For more information on these, please see the 11 part series on nonviolence at https://renewedheartministries.com/Esights/05-27-2012.)
What I want you to notice is that this has been the objection in every age when the teachings of Jesus on this subject are encountered. In the sixteenth century, it was the Turks. Protestants used the threat of the Turks to reject Anabaptist teachings on the necessity for Jesus’ followers to actually follow His teachings on peace and nonviolence. They used this “foreign threat” (the Turks) to incite fear of the Anabaptists in the masses. (“If we follow what those Anabaptists are saying, the Turks will overrun Europe and our way of life as we know it will be over.”) This very same “foreign threat” argument was used to turn the populace against such Anabaptists as Michael Sattler, a significant contributor to the Schleitheim Confession, and to have Sattler arrested by Count Joachim von Zollern, regent of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Sattler was severely tortured and then executed on May 20, 1527.
Also, I believe that “foreign threat” was genuinely why Constantine allegedly embraced “Christianity.” Christianity was growing at such an exponential rate that if everybody in the Roman Empire became Christian (at this time in Christian history, that meant becoming a pacifist), then there would be no one to defend Rome’s borders and Rome would be overthrown. Christianity must be infiltrated and changed from within; thus, Constantine’s alleged vision and conversion and the Constantinian shift that changed everything within Christianity for the last 1,700 years.
“Foreign threat” was the basis for the original rejection of Jesus and His peace teachings by the Jews as well. In this case it was not a potential foreign threat but the current foreign threat of the Romans, by whom they were already oppressed and from whom they desperately desired to be liberated. The argument in Jesus’ day was that if they followed Jesus’ teaching on “loving our enemies,” they would never escape from the oppression of the Romans. This in turn caused them to reject the teachings of Jesus for a messiah who would be willing to take up the sword, and look much more like “The Hammer,” Judas Maccabaeus of old.
Now, let’s look at this first seal again, this white horse, which is followed by the red (bloody) horse with a sword. (This four-horse imagery was originally used in the prophecies of Zechariah.) This first seal is of a mounted archer on a white horse, crowned from conquest! What image would this have conjured up in the minds of the original audience of the Book of Revelation? The dreaded Parthian Empire was the “foreign threat” of the day when Revelation was delivered to the seven churches. The Parthian Empire was the most dreaded enemy of the Roman Empire at the time when Revelation was penned. The Parthians were to Roman citizens what Al-Qaida is to American Christians today, what Hitler was to the Allies in the twentieth century, and what the Turks were to Europe in the sixteenth century. They were the resident “foreign threat” of the day for the original audience of this vision. The Parthian Empire resided beyond the eastern borders of Rome’s dominion. And they were “the only mounted archers in the first century; white horses were their trademark” (Boring 1989: 122).
One possible interpretation or application of this vision of the seals could be that foreign threats from our enemies (first seal, whether Parthians, Turks, Hitler, or someone breaking into our home) in any era will cause us to question whether or not to follow Jesus’ teachings of nonviolence, and if we reject Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence, it will always lead to a red horse and all that this horse brings (6:3–4), which produces the next two horses and all that they bring (6:5–8), in any and every era. The question for us today is, will we, as Jesus followers, be found crying out from under the altar (6:9–11), or will we find ourselves mounting the red horse, and sometimes, even in Jesus’ name? I’m hoping the lights for some have just turned on.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”— Jesus (Luke 9.23,24)
Again, the greatest significant objection from those to whom I present Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence is “foreign threat” from our enemies. Just last night after a presentation, I received this question, written on a piece of paper and handed to me:
“By living as Jesus did, we become vulnerable to being used or manipulated or deceived by others. Should we be “on guard” for this, and if so, how do we live generously and still protect ourselves from manipulations that can seriously hurt us?”
I’ll answer this question this week in a balanced way, but please notice the psychology of what took place in the heart and mind of the listener as we looked at the teachings of Jesus. Immediately, we most often move to the emotionally charged possibility of “foreign threat.” This has always been the “white horse” (or “foreign threat”) which has historically always led a red horse, which has led to a black horse, and then a pale horse.
If this is correct, then the white horse isn’t, as some would say, a false messiah; it’s the “wars and rumors of wars” that threaten us and make us choose a false messiah (which is actually the red horse) that will use the sword to protect us, rather than embracing the true Messiah and the way of the cross. The white horse rides through every day in each of our lives.
Will we choose the red horse, which leads to the black and then the pale? Or will we be found crying out from under an altar, having been slain for putting on display the beauty of the Father as seen in the teachings of Jesus. The relevance of our message concerning our God and the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 6:9) is dependent on answering this question correctly.
Israel chose the red horse, took up the sword, and died by the sword. Western Christianity, with only one exception that I am aware of historically, has done the same.
Something to ponder.
1) Prayerfully and honestly consider what is your “foreign threat,” right now in your life, that causes you to be reluctant about following Jesus’ peace teachings in a practical way.
2) Prayerfully consider Part 3 and Part 8 of the eSight series, The Active Nonviolence of Jesus at:
3) Write down and be prepared to share any concerns, fears, convictions or paradigm shifts Jesus is leading you through on this subject currently. Be respectful of where each person is. And remember we are all in process. It’s a journey, and we are all at a different place.
Lastly for all, if you are interested in more information on this subject and answers to many frequently asked questions regarding the love-your-enemy teachings of Jesus, please see the series that begins at
We’ll take one more swipe at this passage in Luke 6 again next week.
Keep living in love and loving like Christ till a world where love reigns is the only world that remains. Now, go enlarge the Kingdom.
I love you guys!
I’ll see you next week.