Love Your Enemies?

Written on 02/23/2023
Christian Dunn

Verse: Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This part of the Sermon on the Mount is definitely one of the most challenging. (Who are we kidding, it's ALL challenging!) Jesus lays out some painful logic for us: if we love those who are easy for us to love, what credit is that to us? If love is sacrificial and self-giving, then what does it really say about our depth of love if we love people who love us back? Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't love those people! But that's not the real test of our love, is it?

Jesus is stretching us on purpose. He commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Now, we may or may not have enemies, but we all have people in our lives who are harder for us to love than others. We have people who we don't naturally get along with. We have people who annoy us. We also have people who have hurt us in some way. Jesus is asking us to learn to love even those people. 

What does it mean to love people in your life who have hurt you? Is it safe to love people who have wronged you? What if they are emotionally unsafe for you? I think that Christians have occasionally misused these verses to encourage people to stay in unhealthy friendships. Please hear me - that's not what this is about. There are most definitely times when the most loving thing to do (for yourself) is to remove yourself from a hurtful relationship. (And obviously always remove yourself, and get help, if you find yourself in an abusive relationship.)

Certainly if you have an enemy who wants to kill you, you probably aren't getting lunch with them. Right? But you can love them. You can bless them and pray for them and do good to them.

I'm not saying you should have friendships with unsafe, hurtful people. But you can choose to love them. You can pray for them. And you can live in forgiveness towards them instead of bitterness. Now, the deeper the pain, the longer this will take. But there is freedom on the other side. Loving our enemies is good for us. It teaches us about God's incredible love for us (who in many ways are his enemies.) It teaches us that love isn't a transaction to get us something. It teaches us that sometimes love is about who we want to be, not who others fail to be. 

Is there anyone in your life that are thinking of right now? I wonder if there is some healing that God wants for you that lies in you asking him to help you to love them?