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Love Your Enemies?

This will be a tough one—for me, at least. The enemies faced each and every hour of each and every day are prolific in dispensing their wickedness. We have looked at their perpetration of evil many times. We have no choice, because it never ends, and we are commissioned from on high to “watch” (Mark 13:37).

This incessant raging against our sense of truth–of what is biblically righteous—evokes human anger, no matter the devotion to trying to be Christ-like in our attitude and comportment.

Now, to get into this just a bit–and I don’t want to go too deeply into the weeds—I’ll just begin by telling, obliquely, a little about conversations I have occasionally with family members. I say “obliquely” because I don’t want them mad at me, so I won’t say who.

The conversations sometimes are as early as 4 am. Yes, I’m an early riser, and sometimes, when family members happen to be around at that hour, we discuss things going on in culture, politics, religion, etc. The more adamant among the conversationalists are quite angry at the injustice, the tyranny, the wickedness taking place as we look at the things being reported. To be frank, they often cook up what they would like to see happen to those engaged in perpetrating the injustice, the tyranny, the wickedness. The punitive creativity is not something I would be comfortable relaying in this forum.

My response to one or the other telling just how they would like this evil to be handled is that that isn’t the way a Christian should think. They say things like “I know, Pops, but it makes me so mad I can’t help it.”

In response to the expressed actions, I say things like, “Do you think Jesus would react that way, even to this level of evil, were He here in the flesh today?”

That usually brings down their heated temperaments, to some extent. They then might retort with something like, “Yes. But He’s God and I’m not.”

At any rate, the whole matter, I believe, is a valuable exercise in evaluating ourselves in regard to our own dealing with this injustice, tyranny, and wickedness we as Christians endure each day.

We all know about the outrageous acts, issues, and events that afflict us that challenge our temperaments. We’ve covered all of them so many times in these commentaries.

Those who inflict these evil upon our lives, while we only want to live peaceably, are enemies. We can say this, because they are the tools of the archenemy of God, thus enemies of each of us within God’s family who are living on planet earth.

Those who want to break into our lives and steal our tranquility, our peace, and even our children, not even to mention our welfare financially through unfair-to-absurd confiscatory taxation, can be compared to the “thief” in the following:

“When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils” (Luke 11: 21–22).

Jesus, although in the context of prophecy involving watching for the suddenness of the Rapture, further gave, through analogy, warning about being watchful for evil break-ins:

“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matthew 24:42–43).

So, it is clear that the Bible instructs believers to be aware of enemies wanting to do us harm. We are told even to be armed in order to protect our households–defend ourselves against harm. But nowhere are we told to hate our enemies. On the contrary, we are told the following through a quite lengthy instruction for how to deal with our enemies. It comes from the Lord, Himself:

“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6: 27–38).

Now I must admit that I find loving the enemies today who murder babies by the millions, who more and more draw this culture into the cesspool of pedophilia–a thing that has been prevalent in most every civilization at its end—all but impossible. But that doesn’t alter the truth that we are told by our Lord that this is what we should do.

He showed that love Himself, we remember, while hanging on that cross on which He died for us. The martyr Stephen did so while being stoned, and the Lord stood from the right hand of God’s throne to applaud him.

Apart from the love of Christ–of God the Father—ours would be fate much worse than the punitive actions sometimes concocted in those early-morning sessions to which I referred.

I guess the answer to how to begin to appropriate such love–and we cannot do it apart from the Holy Spirit who indwells—might be found in my friend, the late Dr. Tim LaHaye’s, book–The Spirit Controlled Temperament. That book, of course, was filled with God’s Word in coming to its conclusions.

I should probably pick up that book and read it again.


19 Comments

  1. Charleen says:

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been dealing with a situation at work (I work at a cat shelter/rescue) where my director has been very passive aggressive towards me and even one time literally yelling at me about something quite minor. This has been going on for a few months and I began to sense that she wanted me to quit. I recently got confirmation about that, too, which was probably considered gossip as it was told to me by someone who is very reliable. (Forgive me Lord!) I accepted a job in ministry and will be leaving at the end of this month. I thank the Lord and give him all glory for this opportunity. However, I have had the worst thoughts about letting my director know about my feelings about the way I’ve been treated. The Lord has been working in my heart and I will not say anything to her about it. This post has strengthened my resolve to be loving. I will be giving her a nice note and a Bible when I leave. Please pray that she finds the truth in Jesus and is saved.

  2. Ed Wood says:

    This is all really complicated for me.

    On the one hand Jesus would have us “love our enemies,” but does this also mean we should roll over for evil? I sure don’t claim to have a definitive answer.

    What I do have, rightly or wrongly, (and probably more inclined to the latter), is how I handle it. Right up front, I’ll be honest – loving my enemy is something I’ve never been able to do. Best I can manage is to not go out of my way to do him or her harm. I do, however, always leave the door open to be reconciled. But that person has to decide whether or not to walk through. They are effectively dead to me if they don’t. I know that sounds harsh, but there it is.

    I have always believed that there can be no forgiveness without repentance because that would mean giving a pass to evil. It would also invalidate the need for heaven or hell, if evil was left to go without punishment and righteousness without reward.

    I think Abraham was really onto something in his conversation with God regarding the upcoming judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah:

    Genesis {18:24} Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that [are] therein? {18:25} That be far from thee to do after this manner, to
    slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

    We see two aspects of God here – his mercy and his justice.

    The former is reflected in the response that if only ten decent people out of the whole place were found, he would spare it for their sake. The latter is reflected in carrying out the destruction when not even ten were found.
    Probably not even one, outside of Lot and his family.

    I think this is an example to us, even as imperfect as we are, as to how to act ourselves.

    Evil does succeed when good people do nothing and I think our present-day world is a tragic example of that very concept.

    I hope a lot of responses come in on this because I would like to know a lot more about this.

    • Rela says:

      I may be misunderstanding what you’ve said. I think there must be forgiveness, even without repentance. I learned that when I was betrayed by a close friend–along with another person in my life. It was a serious matter. The Lord even saw to it that I was transferred (truly miraculously) to the other side of the country–as we worked for the same company.
      In counseling with my pastor (before I was transferred), told me that I had to forgive, but I did not have to reconcile–if there was no repentance. I would have to treat them with kindness, as I would anyone else, but I did not have to associate with them, even though they insisted I must remain friends. (The transfer took care of that.) He said if they did not repent, I had no reason to trust them in the future. I opened the door to give them that opportunity, even years later, but they never admitted to anything, let alone asked for forgiveness. I was able to forgive, but it took quite a while.

      • Ed Wood says:

        Thanks very much for your comment.

        I think the only time we should forgive without repentance is in a case of someone unintentionally “doing us wrong.” The Mosaic system (Numbers 15:22-26) and Jesus (Luke 12:47-48) actually deal with this but, even then, there were still consequences, though much milder.

        Perhaps it is a case of semantics, but, from my viewpoint, without reconciliation, it really isn’t forgiveness. For that to happen, the person who intentionally wronged us has to make the move to make things right.

        Thanks again, Rela, for your reflections.

    • Christine says:

      Ed,

      I agree with Rela. If one lives even a few adult years, one will experience injustice and hatred. Jesus instructs us to love our enemies, with no asterisks. Forgiveness does not need to be a mutual condition and reconciliation does not need to be the result. I had a situation several years ago and it was bad. I was discussing it with a close, spiritually more mature friend who reminded me of this instruction. I replied that I did love them to which she said “do you?” I thought about it for a moment and said “well, I don’t wish any of them any harm.” But that made me wonder what the BIBLICAL definition of love is. Shocker! Not only do we need to not wish or do them ANY harm but biblical love also actively works for their good (do a word study on every instance of love mentioned in the Bible). Again, this does not need to be a mutual behavior. What Jesus calls His followers to is dying to self, the hardest thing ever. Good luck.

      • Ed Wood says:

        What you said makes perfect sense, Christine.

        I reckon there’s something wrong with my wiring because the best I can do is to not go out of my way to do any harm to those who have wronged me.

        In a pinch, I suppose I’d help them out, andbut to be quite truthful with you, I’m not even sure of that.

        This is just one of my many flaws and I totally identify with Paul’s own struggles with his darker (sin) nature (Romans 7) because this is a daily challenge for me.

      • Glenn B. says:

        Let me throw this out for consideration my brothers and sisters. I had a grandmother who once told me “I have to love them but I don’t have to like them”. I believe that is Agape love is. We don’t just go by our feelings but rather we do what the Lord commands. LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. PRAY FOR THEM. We don’t have to like them. Watch what happens if you see them on the side of the road with a flat tire and help them. That’s a very positive witness of God’s love. I can’t tell you how many past feuds I had with supposed enemies were restored by continuing to be kind to them. Food for thought. It happens all the time between husbands and wives who “don’t feel love anymore for their spouse”. The Holy Spirit can bring back that “feeling” of love I believe. Maranatha Lord Jesus.

      • Glenn Bowman says:

        Brother and Sister Christine and Ed, Please let me further clairify my remarks brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not know Greek. I copied the definition below of what it means in the Greek. I came to this understanding in my theology by reading the C.S. Lewis Book “Mere Christianity”. As we now live during the Age of Grace, God’s love for us is UNCONDITIONAL once we but believe. He commands our love to be the same for all as a witness to God’s mercy and love. If AG Garland has a flat tire on the road, out of agape love, I will help him change the tire. But, I do not like him. :-(. I believe he is a lost soul going to hell unless he comes to a belief in Jesus Christ (perhaps he is a believer; only Jesus knows for sure). The vitriol between professing brothers and sisters in Christ (which I was most guilty of; I’m working on that now) greatly troubles me. NONE of us are infallible. There is only one Holy Spirit. In the fullness of our maturity, hopefully we all come to the same point of understandings of His Holy Word.
        agapove ад LOVE
        [ἀγάπη] • Greek
        (n.) highest form of unconditional, selfless, sacrificial love,
        that God is and shows toward us. A fruit in the heart of a saved person. Love, not as a feeling but as action, without expecting anything in return. Just my 2 cents worth. Maranatha Lord Jesus.

  3. Jeri says:

    One thing to keep in mind about enemies, I believe, is to understand they are being manipulated and needled by our common foe, Satan. So it’s very important to pray for them like Jesus instructed, One way to pray is that the Holy Spirit would go to them in His great power, take the blinders off their eyes and draw them to salvation in the Savior. That way, hopefully they will become a force for Christ and fellow workers with us, happy and blessed.

    I too had a conflict at work that caused me so many problems. I decided to read Psalms before work every day. And when it was the person’s birthday, I had enough love for her by then to bring her a nice card and a little gift. The Lord took over from there. She became a good friend and Christian. We are still good friends after 25 years. God is good.

  4. WOW! Do we need to hear this message today!! You are so right, and thanks for reminding us that the truth of the Gospel outweighs any other truth. It is not a “worldly” love either. It is with Godly love, that we should love those enemies of ours. Almost as if the Lord is telling us to have PITY on our enemies because we were once an enemy of Christ and His Gospel. I think it has everything to do with perspective. If we are truly disciples, we will listen to the Master. Thanks again Terry, I don’t mind confessing that the enemies we deal with have me on a “spinning top” these days! And here we were all thinking it way okay to despise the Speaker of the House for poking the bear!!!! God bless you Sir. Keep them coming!!!

  5. Harvey says:

    Forgiveness is a most important lesson we must learn and it is an act of will. We do not forgive because we don’t want to. Why should we, after all they have done, we reason? With Gods help we can and we must! If we do not forgive , neither will we be forgiven! If we believe God on this, we will persist for our own sakes. We will win. It is not letting our enemies off the hook! They still need to repent themselves in order to receive God’s forgiveness. I have had to fight battles myself on this. I persisted for probably years in a couple of cases. Every time I thought of the people involved I had to let go again and pray until I had sense of peace. I realised that they had their own troubles which drove them to behave as they did.
    The clincher was when I was ministering to someone else. His problem was , I learned in a dramatic way, unforgiveness. I had a vision. It was in vivid colour like perhaps I had seen in a movie. It was a medieval scene. A stone dungeon. On the left were the iron bars of prison cells. In front of the cells was an open fire with irons heating up in it. There was a man coming down the stone stairs. He was big and ugly. He wore a sleeveless black leather vest and a black leather apron. His bare skin was brown and glistened with sweat.” Who is he, Lord?” I asked. ” He is the torturer!” the Holy Spirit replied.
    Immediately the scripture came to mind. Matthew 18:34,35. It is that serious! I will never forget that vision and the lesson it portrayed.

  6. L R D says:

    Just some thots. I loved you commentary!! I Cor 6:11 is pertinent also. Several years ago Dr. Jobe Martin gave us a little, POWERFUL, book, “The indwelling Life of Christ” (All of Him in All of ME) by Major W. Ian Thomas. This book is incredibly powerful and short, yet packed with scripture to back up the subtitle. That really sums up the whole life of sanctification. Blessings to you and MARANATHA!!! Rhonda

  7. Harvey says:

    There is another lesson which I would like to add.”Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for good to those who love Him, who are the called , according to His purposes” There was a man who worked in the same office , who made my life a misery. Why, I could not understand, but he would deliberately act to undermine me in every way he could. I tried to have it out with him, so I called him into my office and asked him what the problem was. I let him go on, and he related all that he had against me. I made no response in self-defense. Then he blurted out “There’s one thing more. Its your religion!” I realised then that it was the spirit within him. He wanted to “have a finger in every pie” and did not like it if I disregarded his views. He would work actively to ruin anything in which he did not have a say. I prayed often that the Lord would take him out of my life
    but he did not . I did find that when I listened to him, it was occasionally good advice , so I learned to listen to my enemies.
    It was many years after I retired that this man started to appear in my dreams and I learned to interpret them. He represented a controlling spirit and was key to my understanding as to what the dream symbolized. The dreams were so valuable and I began to thank God for my past experiences. How this man would have hated it if he realised what a blessing he had become to me in such an unintended way.

  8. Andy says:

    Perhaps you intended such, but it is good to be explicit in HOW we are to love our enemies.

    Endless tolerance is the antithesis of God’s love, and witnessing to someone over and over and over is casting your pearls before swine.

    Jesus came ONCE. He told unbelievers ONCE. We have a life in which we can repent and be saved ONCE. And as Paul instructed the Corinthians, sometimes “loving” someone and not letting their lives turn into hell ON EARTH is being quite UN-loving and sending their spirits to Hell for eternity.

    Another way of putting it is: we go easy on children who do something wrong, possibly even very seriously, if they do not know. They are disciplined if warned previously, and punished harshly if they have been warned often, repeatedly, and yet nevertheless insist on doing evil.

    It is worth noting that nobody was ever called to witness to Pharisees who knew who Jesus was and yet still rejected Him. Only Nicodemus, who inquired of Jesus, was received and witnessed to by our Lord while Jesus was ministering. Paul was saved by Jesus Himself, but unlike the Pharisees who dealt with Jesus it is apparent that Paul had neither met Jesus nor possessed the knowledge and understanding that Jesus truly was the Messiah prior to the Damascus Road. And after Saul approved of Steven’s death, Jesus Himself went to then-Saul, not wasting any other believer in witnessing.

    It is ALSO worth noting that disbelief cost Paul in this life. As Paul himself notes, Jesus told him all the thing Paul would have to suffer for Jesus’ Name (Acts 9:16).

    Sure, sometimes witnessing gets one hurt, even martyred. But sometimes witnessing to someone isn’t to save them, but so that they will harden their hearts and further glorify God in His punishment of them. Isaiah 6 if you don’t believe me.

    It is actually one of the scarier things I came to fully understand in my horrible marriage: there was nothing lovable about my wife, but I had committed myself to her. I CHOSE to seek good for her in all things, not because she was worth it, but because she desperately needed it, AND to honor myself I would do what was right, even if she did not.

    In a similar-but-much-greater way, we only matter to God because He decided to think about us. It is very true that in some sense we matter more to God than His own welfare, and it is also very true in another sense that we are truly less than worthless… we are vile, and there is nothing lovable IN OR ABOUT us.

    God loves us because He chooses to and because we desperately need Him to, not because we earned it or deserve it. We deserve His hate. Thus gratitude changes us from slaves to children.

    If there is no gratitude to God, then I would say further witnessing would be pointless. No repentance will occur, no salvation, no reconciliation. So Jesus prayed NOT for everyone but only for those given to Him.

    And also don’t forget God and Jesus don’t automatically switch us from “enemy” to “children”. It is a sliding scale, from unbeliever, to believing slave, then servant/disciple, friend, and THEN child of God.

    It is therefore likely there are different scales of unbelievers, and some who should not be shown love or dealt with at all. One list I would put forward would be (worst to best): the Antichrist and his ilk, the apostate (Bible said it would be worse for those who fall away than if they were simply unbelievers), the unbeliever who simply doesn’t care about God, those who hear and hate God but never pretended to be one of His, the unbeliever who never heard.

    • Rela says:

      Andy, I would just like to say that I heard the Gospel from someone at college and didn’t understand it. I also heard it from a performing group at college and didn’t understand it then either. I heard it from Billy Graham on TV, and was always quite drawn to his messages, yet it didn’t get through. It was probably five years or more before I understood it and accepted the Lord. It took two very supernatural answers to prayer to finally make me understand. I am so grateful the Lord didn’t give up on me.

    • Ed Wood says:

      I think what you said is reflected here Andy:

      1 Timothy {6:3} If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, [even] the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; {6:4} He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, {6:5} Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

      When my former denomination (the Episcopal Church) began to embrace the “doctrines of devils” and there was no move to reverse course, the time had come for me to walk away. I think this principle applies equally when dealing with individuals, too.

      Time comes when you just have to “Sing a Travelin’ Song.”

      Tolerating evil is nothing more than an endorsement of it – and that’s why it has grown so huge today.

      • Harvey and Colleen Rosieur says:

        Anyone can claim justification for not forgiving. It is not a question of personal ‘wiring’ but deciding to obey God. He will always help. We must love the sinner but hate the sin. We don’t have to spend time in their company or lavish them with gifts, but when we think of them we must be free of wrong thoughts towards them or harmful emotions, or secretly hoping they will slip on a banana skin .We choose our company still, but if we choose to be on the Lords side, we will do as He says.

  9. P.J. says:

    Are you sure you were not eavesdropping on me yesterday?🤔 You and I share the exact same feelings regarding abortion and those who harm children.
    Yesterday, I read an article about two homosexual men who used their adopted children to make child porn. This article got into details and by the time I finished reading it, I was fuming! I had a conversation with a family member and asked how am I suppose to pray for people who would do that to a child? They deserve punishment and I hope they end up in hell.
    I pray all the time to be more like Jesus and do feel ashamed that I feel the way that I do, but as your children said, I am not God. How can He expect me to forgive?
    Thank you for this article because it was very timely for me. I continue to pray and ask God to help me with my attitude. I know what the Bible tells me that I must do. The problem is that my flesh is resisting because it is so much easier to be angry at these kinds of people than to forgive them. God Bless!

  10. Amen and thank you and all.

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