Enemies come in many different forms. There is the obvious enemy who is out to get you. There is the enemy who might have been a friend once, but then there was a falling out, and now they don’t like you anymore. There is also the enemy who has something against you for some reason, and goes behind your back to talk negative about you. Each one of these enemies can make our lives difficult.
Jesus has made many challenging statements, but the one we find in Matthew 5:44 is one of the most challenging: “But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” It is challenging enough to love all those who we enjoy and who love us back. But love my enemy? Where do I get the strength to do that? Where do I get the desire? Why would I even care to consider this? Why would Jesus ask us to do this?
First, it is about not paying back evil for evil. Although this bit of retribution might be in our sinful persona, it is not a good way to act. When we pay back evil, we allow overwhelming bitterness, anger and hatred to dwell in us. When we seek revenge on an enemy, we continue the process of hate and fuel our enemy’s desire to harm us. But just resisting revenge is not love. If we are to love our enemy, we have to go further than just keeping ourselves from doing harm to them.
Second, if God is love, and we are God’s children, then our being should be about love. When we are led to anything but love because of our enemy, then we fail to walk in the path that God has for us to walk. We are called to follow the example of Jesus, and we see that Jesus did not bring retribution to those who considered themselves His enemies (He knew that comes at the time of judgment), but knew their hatred of Him led them to do their terrible deeds. Jesus calls us to walk in His footsteps, which is to love others. Jesus said that by our love people would know we are His disciples. This is what sets us apart from those who aren’t Jesus’ followers, that we love at all times.
Of course, this is easier said than done. F. F. Bruce, in his book The Hard Sayings of Jesus (p. 73), said: “The best way to destroy an enemy is to turn him into a friend.” This is what love is about, rising above the hate and anger and bitterness of our world, and sharing the love of God with all. This doesn’t mean that you put yourself in a place to be hurt, but as best as you can, you love each person in the best way God shows you how.
If we could all do this, what a better place our world would be.