“I tell you, love your enemies.”
Did Jesus really mean love?
An enemy is defined as someone who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another.
And Jesus wants us to love them. Really?!
He didn’t leave us wondering what He meant by the word “love.” He went further and fleshed it out…
“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! Luke 6:27–31 (MSG)
And if it still sounds too hard and you just don’t want to, (honestly, I don’t want to either but) look at Jesus next words.
“I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.” Luke 6:35–36
When you and I want to fight back and get revenge or tell anyone who will listen how we’ve been wronged it just all seems like an impossible word to follow. So, I sometimes wonder if most of us have decided Jesus is asking the impossible.
And if we had to do it on our own, He would be.
Let’s take a closer look at some specific ways we can, with the Spirit’s help, love our enemies…
How to Follow Jesus and Love Your Enemy
1. Choose to Forgive
Forgiving is obedience. No excuses. No exceptions. Forgive. Not for them but for you. Forgiving will give you the freedom to live and love.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:13–14
2. Know that God is the One Able to Change Them
It’s hard to admit that I am only able to change me. I can’t make someone love me. You can’t either. So, pray for them and leave the work of changing hearts to God. Let it go and trust God’s ability to change them and you.
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 2 Timothy 2:24–25
3. Stop Complaining About Your Enemy to Your Friends
There are multiple sides to every story. You may find it helpful to talk about your feelings, but trashing the person who hurt you won’t help you long-term. Remember once you complain to someone else you have no control over what they do with what you’ve told them.
If you must complain, and if you’re like me . . . you must, take it to God. He loves you and wants to help heal your heart.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18
4. Ask for Help with Your Hurt Feelings and Anger
If you need to be with people . . . ask. If you need time alone . . . let people know. If you need someone to cry with you . . . tell them. Invite people to keep you in prayer. People won’t know what you need unless you ask. And You can tell someone you need help without giving them details.
I’ve learned to say, “I’m having a really bad day” or “my heart hurts right now” or “I need a hug!” Those who love me, understand and want to help without prying questions.
“Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful.” ~Ric Ocasek
5. Remember God may be Using This to Protect You
Maybe it’s a lesson you need to learn or a person who needs to have less influence in your life . . . you can still be kind and love them with healthy boundaries.
The awesome truth is that even in the hard moments when enemies betray and hurt us, we are not alone. Jesus, the One who told us to love even our enemies, has been there. He understands and He’s given us the gift of His Spirit to help see us through.
“He saw you cast into a river of life you didn’t request. He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body that gets sick and a heart that grows weak. He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your own garden of Gethsemane and He didn’t want you to be alone … He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you.”~Max Lucado
Finally, do something nice for your enemy.
I know, you don’t want to and I know it may not change a thing. But I promise it will change you. You’ll know you did the right thing . . . you walked in the footsteps of Jesus and you can trust His promise.
“Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” Luke 6:38
How has God helped you love an enemy in the past?
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