For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10 NASB
Enemies – No one could ever have imagined such a statement. Today those who are followers of the Christ don’t give this verse a second thought, but when Paul wrote these words the idea was scandalous at best, perhaps even insane. In the Greek world, a man might sacrifice himself for his city, his friends and his family, but he would never do so for an enemy. Enemies were the ones who were supposed to die. The very idea of a hero implied extraordinary concern for the beloved, not the hated.
Even rabbinic Judaism didn’t teach this kind of insanity. Telushkin claims, contra Yeshua, that “Judaism does not demand that one love one’s enemies, though it is untrue to claim, as Matthew does, that Jewish law commands one to hate one’s enemies (see Matt. 5:43). What the Torah and later biblical writings insist on is justice, not love, toward one’s enemies.” Ignoring Telushkin’s misunderstanding of Matthew, we can see that even rabbinic Judaism considered Yeshua’s approach unwarranted and Paul’s proclamation unfounded. No man dies for someone who seeks to harm him. Paul’s claim is absolutely unique in both the Greek and Jewish worlds.
Yet that is precisely what Yeshua and Sha’ul taught. If it were not for the false dichotomy between biblical, Hebraic faith and rabbinic, Hellenized Judaism, Jews might have understood Yeshua in the same light as they understood Hillel and Akiva, as a great sage who explained the deeper meanings of Torah. If it were not for the unwarranted animosity between Christianity and Judaism, scholars like Telushkin might realize that Yeshua stands in the line of the other great rabbis, clarifying the implications of God’s revelation in much that same way that previous sages had. If it were not for all these impediments, all of us might see that Yeshua and Sha’ul illuminate the further reaches of God’s grace, extended to those who stood against Him. In fact, everything about God’s actions toward men reveals the essence of the good news: God loves His enemies – us!
But this means we need to revise our thinking about heroes. Our Western world idolizes those who sacrifice for the common good. Our heroes demonstrate remarkable efforts on behalf of friends, family or country. But if you or I should act on behalf of an enemy, we are called traitors. Yeshua was a traitor, not a hero. Yeshua came to repair the breach between God and His enemies. He sacrificed Himself so that enemies might be brought into the Kingdom. He did not win the battle for men. He won the battle for God, and in so doing, he destroyed the enmity between God and Man from God’s side of the equation. Why should we be surprised that the crowd shouted, “Crucify him!” He was a traitor to their cause. He became the enemy of men in order to be the savior of Man.
Enemy – echthrous – from the word for hatred, is the opposite of agapetos (beloved). Hero and beloved go together. Traitor and enemy do too. Maybe we need to adjust our accolades and cheer the one who reconciled at the cost of being rejected. Maybe we must start by examining what it means to be God’s enemies before we can assert that we are God’s friends.
Topical Index: enemy, friend, echthrous, agapetos, traitor, hero, Romans 5:10
 Joseph Telushkin, Hillel: If Not Now, When?, p. 137.