By Allen White
“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. Matthew 5:43-45
Loving your enemies is easy until you actually have an enemy. An enemy is not someone who merely disagrees with you. The word that Jesus uses here defines an enemy as someone who hates you and who is hostile to you. “Love those who hate you. Pray for those who are hostile to you.” Those are tough words to swallow.
It’s easy to love people who love us. We just love them. It’s also easy to hate people who hate us. Who could love them? Well, God loves haters. But, if God truly loves us, how would He love our haters? This is actually good news when we take this from a different direction.
Once upon a time you and I and all of God’s people were God’s enemies. By our actions and our attitudes, we were hateful and hostile to God. If God didn’t love His enemies, then we would be toast. Fortunately, God not only loved us and prayed for us (John 17), but He also gave His Son for us. Jesus died for people who hated Him, so it would be possible for them to love Him.
The people who hate both Jesus and us need prayer. They need love. They need a Savior, just like we do. God hasn’t given up on them, and neither should we. Now, that doesn’t mean that we need to allow them into our inner circle and hang out with them all of the time. Jesus said to love them and pray for them. He didn’t say to trust our enemies.
Can you imagine how things would be if your enemy came to Christ? Can you imagine the transformation that would take place in their hearts and minds? They wouldn’t necessarily receive an automatic personality transplant, but they would experience divine, unconditional love. That’s what Jesus wants for them, and it’s what Jesus wants us to want for them.
You might be saying, “Well, that’s all good and well, but what if my enemy claims to be a Christian?” That’s a little tougher. They’re more like frenemies, which are harder to define and harder to deal with.
Unfortunately, believers don’t always resort to biblical ways of handling things. The Bible tells us that if we have something against someone (Matthew 18:15) or if someone has something against us (Matthew 5:23-24), we are to go to them and reconcile the matter. If they’re not willing to talk to us, then we should bring someone with us (Matthew 18:16). Grudges and resentment only lead to hatred. There is no room for this in God’s family.
But, what if we didn’t do anything to them or they didn’t do anything to us? What if they just don’t like us for no reason at all? I know that this is beginning to sound strange, but these things happen. Sometimes a person just reminds someone of someone else that they don’t like. No matter what you do, you just can’t escape the association. Praying may very well be the only thing you can do when the feelings grow from such an irrational root.
If people could be saved and instantly cured from all of the wounds of their pasts, that would be a truly awesome thing. But, our transformation into the likeness of Christ is a process that takes place over the course of our lives. Often the negative circumstances and the hateful people we must deal with are tools that God uses to build His character in us.
Our ability to love is not tested when we love those who love us. To love the way that God loves means to love those who hate us. There is no good reason to love them, yet we tap into God’s love and love them anyway.
Who is your enemy? Who is hostile toward you these days? How often do you pray for them? If they’ve done you wrong, you might start with one of David’s prayers in the Psalms.
This might seem impossible. But, nothing is impossible with God. You might even need to pray about how to pray for your enemies.