I don’t know about you, but I don’t invite people who hate me to dinner. We don’t go out to coffee. We don’t hang out.
It’s easy to spend time with those who love me and to stay relatively removed from those who don’t. But God has commanded us to love our enemies… so what does that look like? How we do show love to our worst enemy, the person who hates our guts?
What Did Jesus Say About Enemies?
Jesus gave the disciples a countercultural command in Luke 6. When addressing the topic of enemies, He said:
“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 to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” (Luke 6:27-29)
LOVE your enemies?! How do we love someone who is harsh, cruel, vindictive, or manipulative? This comes down to Jesus’ definition of love! Love is selfless service; not just an emotion. And because love is a choice and an action, we can LOVE our enemies even when we don’t feel emotionally loving toward them. It is God’s Spirit working in us which enables us to this selfless service.
Jesus commanded this because it is what God has done for us. Before Christ, we were enemies of God! We were at odds with Him, under His wrath, because our sin separated us from Him. So if God SO LOVED His enemies that He died… doing good for those who hate us is not such a tall order.
Should Christians Even HAVE Enemies?
Followers of Jesus should not be the kind of people who actively make and keep enemies because of their own behavior, but they may end UP with enemies simply because of how they live. Our faith is controversial. Our worldview goes against what the world deems acceptable. This means there will be people who hate us!
Paul addressed this issue with the Roman church, who had just come out of persecution and was coming back into unity at the time his letter reached them.
“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.” (Romans 12:17-20)
That’s a tall order! As far as it is up to us, we are to be at peace. Revenge is for God to work out in His timing and way; he is the only perfect judge. Our job is to give grace and kindness to those who don’t deserve it, and we can ONLY do this if we trust God to work our justice.
Loving Your Enemy, Practically
Not all of our enemies are in our daily lives enough to be given love face to face. For many of us, the love we give our enemies is in our prayers for them, redirecting negative and angry thoughts to lift them up to God and HIs justice. But if your worst enemy IS in your daily life, think about what Jesus said: Do good. Whatever good could be done for them, as for the strength and wisdom to do it. Trust God to be your justice. And let them respond however they do, because what YOU are doing is simply obeying God and imitating Jesus. And that’s all you’ve been asked to accomplish.