In my opinion, Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:43-48 to love enemies could be one of the most difficult to follow. Do you agree?
Let me ask a couple of questions: Do you love your family? Do you love your friends?
Of course you do – and so do I. But what about those who wrong you? Do you love people who dislike you? What did Jesus say about loving your enemies?
Jesus says it’s easy to love a dear friend. In this Matthew study lesson, He warrants no effort for the love of a friend or family member for the most part. However, loving an enemy is cherished.
Jesus Says: “Love Your Neighbor” – But What about Loving Your Enemies?
“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 causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48 NASB
What Did Jesus Really Say about Loving Your Enemies?
When I first started reading this passage I was confused. Love your enemies?
Then, as I read verse 46, I realized what Jesus meant. To love your enemies means to have compassion for them, wish them well, and do good deeds for them. This is even though they may have hurt you.
For instance, when Jesus instructed us to turn the other cheek, he was not advocating physical harm. Instead, he suggested that instead of responding with violence, we should respond with compassion and understanding.
To love our enemies does not mean we should condone their actions but rather understand them. We should strive to see things from their perspective and treat them with kindness and respect, even if they hurt us. This is not only more productive, but also more in line with Jesus’ teachings.
Only Those Who Love Us?
If we love and cherish the people who care for us back, what did we accomplish for God by doing so? By loving and cherishing those who care for us, we are no different from non-Christians. However, by living our lives according to God’s commandments, we are taking one step closer to becoming the people He has called us to be.
We show our love for God by caring for those around us, regardless of whether or not they return the love. This is an example of how we can honor God through our everyday actions.
Our Lord teaches us not to retaliate, so that we do not take the law into our own hands. We can overcome evil by loving and praying for those who oppose us. We must show others the same grace we have been given, and instead of fighting back, forgive and move on.
Who Should We Love?
The Pharisees interpreted Leviticus 19:18 as teaching to love only those who love in return. They took Psalm 139:19-22 and 140:9-11 as meaning they should hate their enemies.
It is only by loving your enemies and treating them well that you can truly demonstrate that Jesus is Lord over your life.
Only God can deliver people from their natural selfishness when they fully give themselves to Him.
Use the Holy Spirit to Guide You
We must trust the Holy Spirit to help us show love to those for whom we may not feel love.
The Holy Spirit provides us with the strength and courage to make decisions according to God’s will. It is only by relying on the Holy Spirit that we can overcome our own biases. This helps us show love to those we may not instinctively feel love for.
Love Each Other?
However, it is our duty as Christians to at least care for those who hate us, just as Christ did on the cross.
It was he who gave his life for a world who hated him. We should honor His sacrifice by showing love and compassion to those who do not love us in return. So, can we love those who wrong us and pray for them?
The quote (right) is from Richard M. Nixon’s address to his staff before leaving the White House. In the quote, he speaks of the power of the presidency and the importance of the office, and how it will outlast his tenure in the White House. He acknowledges that he has made mistakes and encourages those who work in the White House to learn from them. It has stuck with me and is worth repeating:
“Always remember that others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them back.”
Love in Christ
If you would like to learn more about how to receive the love and life-changing experience of Jesus Christ, please take a moment to read this page to learn more.