How to Love Our Enemies

The purpose of this article is to share some thoughts on one of the most important aspects of Christian living.

How do we love our enemies?

If we are honest, we would have to admit that loving our enemies is one of the hardest things to do. Loving those who love us is easy; as Jesus said, even the unrighteous ("pagans" and despised "tax collectors") do that (Matt. 5:44-47). Loving our enemies goes against human nature and may even appear to us to be hypocritical. ("I love them, but I don't like them at all.") Nevertheless, Christ commands us to bless our enemies, to do good to them, and to pray for them (v. 44).

However, before we can effectively love someone, we must first understand what Christian love really is. Christian love is an attitude, not an emotion. It is consistent and is not dependent on our feelings.

It is not hypocritical for us to love our enemies.

Suppose you hate getting up early in the morning, but you have obligations that require you to rise early. Are you hypocritical if you get up when your alarm clock goes off? Of course not! However, if you told everyone that you really enjoying getting up early, then you would not be telling the truth.

So why should we love our enemies?

God commands us to love our enemies, and Jesus Christ is our example. He gave himself for us, purchasing us with the price of His life. Since we now belong to Him, He is our Lord and we are His servants, so our obedience is essential. Love is the essence of Christian responsibility (1 Cor. 13:1-13). Just as Christ hates the sin but loves the sinner, He commands us to do likewise. Because we love Christ we want to emulate Him and to love as He loves. As Jesus said, His Father "'causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous'" (Matt. 5:45, NIV). Therefore, He commands us to love our enemies so that we will be "sons of [our] Father in heaven."

In addition, God has given us a Divine Commission to preach the gospel and to be soul winners for His kingdom (Matt. 28:19-20). No one has ever won someone into God's kingdom through hate! When we respond to our enemies we should be courteous and respectful, so that our speech will demonstrate that we are servants of the King. "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Col. 4:5-6, NIV). First Peter 3:9 says, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult" (NIV).

God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He does not command us to be hypocritical. He loved us while we were still in our sins. As we strive to follow His example, the Holy Spirit will enable us to love our enemies even though they are sinners, and yet hate their sins.

© by Howard W. Stevens

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