Many of us have heard that Jesus tells us to love our enemies. We all know that this is easier said than done. Sometimes, it is even hard to just say. Despite the difficulty of doing it, this is something that we, as Christians, are required to do. Jesus himself instructed us to do so.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 NIV
Jesus instructs us to love our enemies. Why should we do that? Jesus tells us that we are to do it because we are to reflect God’s character. God provides sunlight and rain on both the believer and the non-believer. His offer of redemption is for good and bad people. We, as Christians, are to reflect God’s character by showing love to all people, including those who persecute us.
Jesus goes a little further to tell us that if we don’t, we are no different than pagans. After all, anyone can love people who love him or her. Anyone can love people who look and act like they do. That is not difficult. What isdifficult is loving those that do not like us. They may even hate us. It is difficult to love those that are seeking to harm or kill us. It is difficult to love people who act different, believe different, speak different, or look different.
So how do we do it? First, it is to recognize that love isn’t about feelings. The Bible teaches us that emotions, although given by God, are not to be trusted. Scripture is to be trusted. God is to be trusted. Emotions are not. To bring home the point, often times, a person can make us laugh when we are in the middle of crying. That is because the person was able to move our focus. That is how erratic emotions can be. Emotions are also one sided and are based on perceptions. Often, when we learn all the facts about a situation, our feelings on the matter will change.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
Proverbs 28:26 ESV
So we know feelings are not to be trusted. How do we love our enemies? The Bible does not leave us in the dark.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Luke 6:27-28 ESV
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Romans 12:9-14 NIV
The first thing we are to do is to pray for our enemies. This is not just for them. By praying for our enemies, we are forcing ourselves to concentrate on their humanness. This will help us focus our thoughts on what God wants in the situation. When we remember this, our focus and our feelings change.
Love given to anyone must be sincere, but it absolutely must be sincere when offering it to our enemies. After all, our enemies are likely to be skeptical of us loving them, so it absolutely must come from a sincere heart in order to reach them.
Love hates evil and clings to good. Just because we love our enemies, we are not condoning the evil that they are doing. This is an important thing to remember. Jesus died for our sins. He loved us enough to die for us. That does not mean Jesus was condoning our sins. It means he loved us. We can hate terrorism, but we should still be praying for terrorists to come to Jesus. We can hate the person who murdered our loved one. We can seek justice. But we should never wish them to hell.
Believe me when I say that this is sometimes a process. It is very easy to say that we should hate the sin and not the sinner, but we all know that it can take a heavenly intervention to make this so. There are times that we could not accomplish this without the Holy Spirit. Even with his help, we often need time. There is nothing easy about doing this but keeping your focus on God and what hewants will help keep you heading in the right direction.
By keeping your spiritual fervor in the Lord you can help keep yourself aligned with God’s wishes. This is crucial to loving your enemies. Because of our fleshly desires, we want to hate our enemies. It takes putting God’s agenda first to overcome these desires.
Scripture also tells us to be patient in affliction. Sometimes our enemy is causing us afflictions. It is especially hard to love the person when this is happening on a regular basis. God tells us to be patient. Keep our hope in him and be patient with the circumstances. What seems like an eternity for us is just a tiny speck in God’s bigger plan.
The Bible even tells us to bless our enemies, not curse them. Let’s be real. It is very difficult to sometimes to just be civil. We are called to be more than civil. We are to wish them the best. We are to sincerely want the best for them, despite the evil they are doing. The next set of verses give us insight into why we would do these things.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:17-21 NIV
We are to make every effort to live in peace with everyone. As far as we can control the situation, we should be at peace. That is a hard thing to achieve. We do this by not taking revenge and not repaying evil for evil. After all, God tells us that vengeance is his. He will enact it on our behalf. Instead, we are to meet the needs of our enemies. Not only will we be reflecting God’s character, but we are hoping that our actions will overcome the evil with good.
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing
1 Peter 3:9 ESV
Blessing our enemies glorifies God. God wants to reward us for following him. In fact, several areas of the Bible discuss these very things. One way to earn these rewards is to bless our enemies.
Lastly, we offer our enemies forgiveness. True forgiveness. This is often part of hating the sin but loving the person. When we love the person, we are more easily able to offer forgiveness. When we forgive our enemies, we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus spoke these words:
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34 ESV
You see, even as he was dying, Jesus was asking the Father to forgive those who were killing him. As CHRISTians we are to emulate Christ. Forgiving our enemies is a direct indication that we are doing exactly that.
It is true. Loving our enemies is hard. I would argue that it is humanly impossible. It is with the help of the Holy Spirit that we are able to do this. Every situation requires a different type of Christian response. We must be willing to put God’s agenda before our own feelings and our own agenda. When we do this, the Holy Spirit will lead us into the right decisions for our situation and will empower us to follow through on those decisions.
Will it be easy? No.
Will it always turn out the way we want? No.
Will God be satisfied? Yes.
God asks us for obedience. He is always happy with obedience. The results of the obedience are in his hands. We are not responsible for that.
Forgive me for not loving my enemies. It is so hard when I feel so hurt. Help me to see the situation with your eyes, not mine. Help me to understand how you want me to respond. God, give me the courage to follow through on what the Holy Spirit prompts me to do. Help me control my tongue and my actions to bring them under your dominion. I want to reflect you and your character. Give me supernatural power to do so.
Thank you for what you have done for me. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me the opportunity to turn to you. Help me to have this same love to others.
In your name I pray,
- Are there people in your life right now that you are having a hard time loving?
- What about their behavior makes them hard to love?
- Pray about the situation, asking the Holy Spirit to convict you of any wrongdoing and to lead you into the right responses.
- Pray for the enemy, asking God to change their heart.
- Record anything that the Lord speaks to your heart.