Loving your Enemies

undercoverdave's picture

David Gagne
Matthew 5:43-48
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Love your enemies

Loving your enemies is a part of Christianity 101. We’ve all heard it, we’ve all tried it, we’ve all failed at it, and we’ve all forgot about it. Lets take another look.

“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:43–48 ESV)

Jesus here is expanding upon Leviticus 19:18. Without looking at Leviticus 19:18, it sounds like Jesus is totally redefining an existing principle, but he is really just correcting a common misuse of the scripture.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:17–18 ESV)

The scripture is pointing out the importance of not holding a grudge, but to love each other by dealing honestly and openly. It seems people had been using the fact that it says to love “your brother” where “brother” means kinsman as an excuse to treat non-kinsman poorly.

Both Leviticus 19:17-18 and Matthew 5:43-48 get read wrong. Neither one is intended to be an impossible command. As a Hebrew, loving your brother is obvious, and God was just pointing out a practical way to manifest that love. As a Christian, loving your enemy is obvious (just look at Christ’s example), but here Jesus is giving a practical way to manifest that love.

Who are our enemies? We face them everyday. They are the people who annoy us, the people we have hidden bitterness towards, the people who dress poorly and we poke fun at, and those who dress better than us and we are jealous of. Basically anyone who doesn’t fall into the easy-to-love, “brother” category fits into the hard-to-love enemy category. We are called to love everyone.

We all fail at doing this daily, but that’s no excuse to give up. One does not master something like this in a week or even a year. This is a lifelong challenge that we need to put effort into.

Jesus told them, “Hey, love your enemies by praying for them!” It might not be too much of a stretch to think that Jesus may have had this same concept in mind when He taught them how to pray a few minutes later.

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:9–13 ESV)

To pray for our enemies with love we must recognize how in many ways we have been the enemy of God, yet he has loved us. This is the principle Jesus impressed upon them through his prayer. The fact is, by our behavior we could be thumbing our nose at God, yet He loved us enough to make intercession for us on the cross. We must follow his example and make intercession for those who have wronged us.

Jesus pointed out that everyone can love someone who is easy to love, and there is no reward for that. But the reward for loving our enemies is to become “sons of the Father in heaven.” We become children of God and receive heavenly inheritance as a reward for loving our enemies as Christ has loved us.

Clay's picture

Love thy enemy

When I think about my # 1 enemy all I must do is look in the mirror to get a good idea of what I'm up against.

Paul said it this way:

Romans 7
vs. 18, "For I know that in me dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not."
vs. 21, "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me."
vs. 23, " But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is my members."
vs. 24, " O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

It seems that our flesh is ever present seeking opportunity to shame and destroy us without rest. I don't believe that the world or the devil is our fiercest foe, but it is the one who stares back at you in the mirror.

If we are to love our enemies let it start by loving ourselves. I'm not speaking of Idolatry by placing self higher than the throne of God. But how many people destroy themselves and do everything in their power to defile themselves over guilt and shame?

People who drink themselves into a coma every night or those who put a needle in their arm at every opportunity?

What about the person who can't make themselves rise out of bed because of depression?

We carry so much guilt and for what? Unfortunately, religion has part in this. Not directly but indirectly through the perspective of those abused by it's heavy burden. Religion is a burden to those who hate themselves. People who hate themselves seek escape!

A person who loves self will think of a reason to rise everyday and avoid the dangers ever-present to the body. They will want to protect and build themselves up. They will also want to help others.