Most Christians are familiar with Matthew 5:44 where we’re told to love our enemies, but too often we become confused with the connotation of loving a bad person when we’re dealing with the world. Our emotions become involved and we begin to pick out other scriptures that seem to clearly say that it’s normal to have enemies. And it is normal because the world is run by Satan and he hates God so he’s going to hate us, as well. But that does not change what Jesus told us, and that is to love our enemies.
We need to realize what Jesus is talking about when He tells us to love our enemies. We need to know who the enemy is and we need to understand why we need to love them.
The “enemy” Jesus is referring to is not the devil. It is the people who come against us in life, who cause us strife and hardship and who can turn our life into a terrible existence if we let them. The enemy is the person or persons who belong to the world and who mock us because we belong to God. The enemy is the one who the devil uses to steal our joy, kill our hopes and destroy our faith in God.
But the Lord has said that we should love our enemies and for several good reasons.
First of all, our lives should be a witness of who God is, and 1 John 4:8 says that God is love. So, if the Lord is the epitome of love and we are reborn and filled with His spirit, then we will also show love to everyone and be a witness of Christ’s love.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” …. Acts 1:8
Secondly, when Jesus died on the cross, John 3:16 says He loved the “whole world” and He gave His life as a sacrifice so that every single person who was ever born on earth could receive His saving grace. Jesus did not pick and choose who He would die for but rather chose everyone, and at that time there were only a handful of people who truly loved God. Yet He gave everyone the opportunity to accept His salvation.
As Christians, we have to examine our own lives and realize that we weren’t always saved. At some point in our life – regardless of whether we were raised in the church or not – we had to say yes to Jesus and accept His salvation. We were ALL sinners before we came to the cross and so we have to treat others the way that Jesus treated us before we were saved – and that is that He loved us.
Thirdly, in Acts 10:34 Paul says that he perceives that God is not a respecter of persons. In order for him to “perceive” that, it would have been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. What God is telling us is that He loves all mankind, every person ever born was a child that He gave life to because He loves them. And so if God can love every person – enough to die for them – even though they are filled with sin, then we, being filled with His spirit, will want to love them, as well.
Fourthly, Galatians 6:7 says that we will reap what we sow. If we treat others with respect and love, regardless of who they are, we are not only treating them as Christ treats them but our actions will come back to us and even the world will treat us the same. But if we treat them with disrespect because they are of the world, then it will come back to us and we’ll be treated badly. This is one instance where we can create the enemies ourself because we don’t treat them as we should.
We need to treat all people the way that we want to be treated, and Luke 6:31 says that we should do unto others as we would have them do to us. So, if we want to be treated in love by other people, then we need to treat other people – even those who we consider our enemy – the way that we want to be treated.
Our commission is to do the Lord’s work on earth and get the people saved – the enemies of the kingdom who might not be enemies if they met the Lord. Not all of them will get saved; some of them are devoted to the devil and will never change. But we don’t know which ones will repent and which ones won’t, so we can’t assume the role of deciding who will get saved and who we’ll treat in love.
Does this mean that we have to take everything they dish out? No, not at all. If we’re treating them fairly and with a happy heart and they continue to hurt us or offend us, then we walk away just as it says in Matthew 10:4, and we simply treat them with respect when we meet up with them. They may be a work colleague or a neighbor or even a family member and they may not appreciate our love for them, but Jesus still expects us to treat them as He would. We don’t go out of our way to befriend them or help them or support them, but we don’t offend them, mock them or speak badly of them, either.
Sometimes our enemies will find God through our testimony, our lifestyle, our respect for them and the joyful heart we maintain even though they work hard to break us. We have no way of knowing which of our enemies will get saved so we treat them all in love. Without us, the world has no way of learning the truth about God and if we don’t love our enemies they will never see His goodness through us, and all those people of the world will continue on their path towards eternal doom.
We will obviously hate what they do, but as His children who are guided by His Spirit, we are expected to have His attitude and that is to “love the sinner, hate the sin”. We’ll never have good feelings towards the murderer who stole a life, or the child abuser who destroyed a life, or the drunk driver who claimed a life. But our feelings have nothing to do with the love of God, and even though their crimes make us sick inside we still need to have love for their souls, and we need to pray for their salvation because it’s the sin in these people that made them the monsters they are. Perhaps this sin was fed by a world that never showed them love, because if they had known the Lord, they never could have committed the horrors they did.
It’s so much easier to love only people who love us back, but Christ wants us to love everyone, even our enemies.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father 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.” … Matthew 5: 44-45