How to Love Your Enemy When You Don’t Want To

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Jesus said, "love your enemy" but sometimes it seems impossible. Here is a two-step process like "rinse and repeat" that will help. I promise.

This one is hard.

You wish Jesus hadn’t said it. But it’s right there in Matthew…

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:43–44

Love your enemies!

Really?!

Love?!

Forgive is hard enough, but love. Love seems unimaginable. Love feels impossible.

Someone came to mind didn’t they? The person or persons who betrayed you, who intentionally made a decision that changed your life, who went out of their way to make your life miserable. Or the person who still gets under your skin every . . . single . . . day.

Love them? Did Jesus really mean love?

Yes! But it’s important to remember we tend to think of love as a warm fuzzy feeling. Jesus wasn’t talking feelings here, He was telling people to DO love. Agape love.

Agape love is God’s kind of love. It is love in action regardless of how we feel. Agape love cares about the welfare of others. It intentionally wants what is best and does it. 

When you want to get even. You don’t.
When you want to tell your friends. You don’t.
When you want to get ugly angry and tell them off. You don’t.

Jesus said, "love your enemy" but sometimes it seems impossible. Here is a two-step process like "rinse and repeat" that will help. I promise.

 

I don’t now about you, but those things can rise up fast in me when I’m hurt. I need help. And the only things that help me love . . . NO, the only things that make it possible for me to love my enemies are:

1. The help of the Holy Spirit. 

Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians – Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31–32

I don’t know about you, but I can’t do that on my own. Bitterness and anger come much more naturally.

Paul also said in a letter he wrote to the Galatians – But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22–23

What I can’t do on my own, I can do with the help of the Holy Spirit. I can love and be patient and kind. I can be faithful, gentle, and show self-control. AND I can have joy and peace in the process.

So, I pray for help and then I…

2. Pray for those who persecute you.

The Jews in the first century understood persecution. They lived under Roman rule. Persecution and prejudice were just part of life.

And Jesus told them to love and pray for their enemies.

Pray for those who make your life miserable. Pray for those who are bigoted. The ones who hurt you. Who are unfair. Who are mean. Who gossip about you. Who ________.

And as if love and prayer aren’t hard enough, Luke added these words to Jesus instructions, “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Luke 6:28–31

Bless them. Give to them. Do to them as you would like them to do to you.

I can’t!

It’s just that simple. Seriously, I can’t do it.

So, I go back to #1, and I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. I pray. And I pray again.

I turn to God’s Word in faith. I remember verses like:

Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter. Proverbs 20:22

Give your burdens to the Lordand He will take care of you. Psalm 55:22

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

Pray!

When it’s hard because it seems like the people who hurt you are doing great and you’re not . . . start again at #1. Because if you want to feel better, if you want peace and contentment, if you want joy. You have to let it go.

Take your eyes off your enemy and turn your focus to the One who will never betray or hurt you and ask for His help.

Pray!

That the Holy Spirit will help your heart heal . . . then pray for your enemy.

If you’re like me, when you’re hurt and angry you have no idea what you should pray for but you’re pretty sure asking God to get even with them is probably not what Jesus meant.

John Piper wrote an excellent article titled, Pray for Those Who Abuse You.

The Lord’s Prayer — Even for Your Enemies

The place to start in praying for our enemies is the prayer that the Lord taught us to pray. Whatever else you pray for your enemies, pray for them like this: (Read more here)

One final thought . . . something that helps me.

Everyone, even your enemy, is someone dearly loved by God.

God will give you everything you need to love . . . even when you need to love your enemy.

I always enjoy hearing from you! Please take a minute to say ‘hi’ and share your thoughts below.

*Would you do me a favor — if this article blessed or helped you today — would you share it with someone else? Maybe a friend, coworker, or family member…

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15 thoughts on “How to Love Your Enemy When You Don’t Want To

  1. I love this! This is by far one of the hardest commandments for me to keep. I’m not by nature a very merciful person. It’s been a big lesson since getting baptized. I always thought I was pretty forgiving but the ability to pray for those who’ve wronged me… that’s tough. When I keep my eyes on God, I remember that their wrongdoing and lack of repentance will ultimately be way worse, in such a way that I start to feel a little bad for them… I’m still working on it, but I can feel Heavenly Father working on me! Thanks for this :_

  2. Deb, I was helping a client establish healthy boundaries with a woman who’d taken over her life. That controlling woman became angry and vengeful with my client and began to call me many times a day and just silently be on the phone when I picked up. This was before caller ID. I knew it was her. Once she was talking to her child when the answering machine came on. The Lord reminded me of the verse to bless your enemy. I started saying “God bless you…her name.” She quit calling. 🙂

  3. There is something very healing when we pray for our enemies – isn’t there, Deb.
    Love this word you shared, “Everyone, even your enemy, is someone dearly loved by God.”
    Great reminder!
    Sharing this one all around.
    Hope you have a great day~
    Melanie

  4. Yes, it’s only with the help of the Holy Spirit that we can do these hard things, like loving our enemies. This was a wonderful, encouraging reminder that I appreciated reading this morning.

  5. This is great! In fact, I want to share it with my kids because they have been fighting with each other a lot lately- as if they are enemies (sibling rivalry). Sharing!

  6. This is the most difficult commandment for me to follow, Deb, but I can attest to the fact that it has worked when I’ve asked for help from the Holy Spirit. When we stay angry at someone or wish to act spitefully toward them, we are only hurting ourselves and creating an unwanted chasm between God and us. Not worth it!
    Wonderful and wise advice as always! Blessings!

  7. Hi, Deb. I came over from Intentional @ Home…even though I didn’t really want to. Because I have an enemy I need to love…even though I definitely don’t want to. Thank you for this wise and practical post. I especially love this: “It’s important to remember we tend to think of love as a warm fuzzy feeling. Jesus wasn’t talking feelings here, He was telling people to DO love. Agape love.” That’ the hook, isn’t it? Will try to remember all you’ve written next week when I have a much-dreaded meeting with my enemy!

    1. Elizabeth, it is so hard. I will be praying for you and that your meeting goes well. I’ve been there. I just keep repeating the process. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to do what I can’t do on my own and pray for the person who hurt me. I think of it like rinse and repeat! Blessings and big hugs!

  8. Deb, there should be one more “pray.” LOL The reason I am saying that is because my wonderful mother used to tel me with things of the heart or situations we did not know how to handle….she muttered very softly.. Pray, Pray, Pray. That is what she did and I miss her saying this and her many prayers.

    Yes, forgiveness is hard but when we cannot let it go, it is only hurting us. Love your post as always. Linda

  9. Deb, Great post. It’s so hard to love our enemies, yet so important. Prayer is the only way I’ve found to love my enemies (and some times that is remaining silent when I’d like to say something not so nice).

    Blessings!

  10. Deb, I cannot thank you enough for this article. It speaks to my heart at a time that I need it the most. Thank you so much for posting this. I believe that GOD led me to this article. You are one of HIS angels here on earth. I am so thankful that when I am struggling to forgive for so many hurts, that you posted this! Forgiving someone else is really setting yourself free. But I know that I cannot do it, I need the HOLY SPIRIT inside of me to accomplish all that needs to be done to restore me and hopefully those who have hurt me as well. Thank you.

    1. Patty, I am so glad this blessed you! It’s so hard to forgive the person or the people who it seems are just out to hurt and defeat us. Somehow it even feels a little satisfying to hold on to anger and resentment. But you’re right, the Holy Spirit will accomplish in me what I am unable to do on my own. Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. You truly blessed me!

  11. Deb- Thanks for posting this! I was searching for a simple yet relatable message for the kids in our youth group- and one that would spur conversation (vs the normal crickets we’ve had during discussions as of late). Looking forward to sharing it with our teens!

    1. Thank you so much, Abby! I’m so glad this blessed you! I hope it starts a great conversation in your youth group! I remember those crickets! 🙂

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