by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:44 NIV
How do two porcupines hug? Very Carefully. How do we love our enemies? With divine empowerment.
What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples to love their enemies? What does it look like to love your adversary?
We associate love with objects that make us feel good. When I say I love chocolate chip cookies, sunsets at the beach, and the gal I just met, I mean I enjoy the taste of cookies, the beauty of sunsets, and my new acquaintance’s personality.
To love our enemy, we need a stronger love than that. We need a love that can’t be stopped by the erratic behavior of its recipient. We must become conduits of Christ’s love.
What Does Love for My Enemy Look Like?
When God tells us to love our enemies, He isn’t asking us to manufacture warm feelings. God’s love is practical. It does what’s right. It seeks the eternal best for all involved.
Two concrete ways to show love are to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44 NIV) and provide help when they experience trouble.
God told the Israelites to return their brother’s stray ox or donkey when they found it (Deuteronomy 22:1). If they found their enemy’s lost animal, they were to return it, too (Exodus 23:4). In other words, we do good for everyone.
What Loving My Enemy Is Not
Loving your enemies is not seeking a close relationship with them or tolerating evil. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. If you wouldn’t place your child or best friend in a situation, you should treat yourself with the same consideration. God calls us to be loving—and wise.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15 NIV).
Unsafe people put kind people in awkward positions. It’s uncomfortable to live guarded. But we must practice caution with those who manipulate, deceive, and back-stab. We don’t do anyone a favor when we protect wrong doers.
A young woman once told me she felt guilty because she told her principal about a young man who bullied her. “I should have been able to shrug it off. He got into trouble, and it’s my fault.” This woman had warned the man many times to stop. Yet she accepted the blame he put on her when he reaped the consequences of his wrongs.
The instruction to love our enemies does not mean to tolerate sin or abuse. Permitting sin is not good for us or them (Ephesians 5:11). Love and boundaries go together. Real love hates wrong.
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good” (Romans 12:9 NLT).
Where Do I Find the Power to Love My Enemy?
God is love. His Spirit produces love through us when we submit to Him (Galatians 5:22). As we obey the Romans 12:14 command to bless those who persecute us, power shifts from our enemy to us. They don’t control us; God does.
When Christ rules our hearts, we love, based not on who they are, but on who we are in Christ. Nobody can rock that.
About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released February 2020. She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.
Join the conversation: How do you go about loving your enemy?