Alan B. Carr
Seven Ideas For Loving Your Enemies
It's easy to love those who love us. In Matthew 5:46-47, the Lord asks: "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?" As followers of Jesus, we are not supposed to be like the rest of the world. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.." (Matthew 5:43-45). This is one of the hardest commands for me to obey, but I've found that it's possible. In fact, I've found that learning to love my enemies is therapeutic and liberating! These are some ideas I've found useful in my walk - I hope you'll find them useful as well:
-Remember: Someday, your enemy could be your friend! Has this ever happened to you? I didn't get along with my little brother at all when we were growing-up, but now he's one of my best friends. When I was in junior high, I had a classmate named David who I couldn't stand being around. Now, thirty years later, he is one of my closest friends. There are biblical examples of this phenomenon as well. Consider Paul: Paul persecuted the church believing he was doing the right thing, but when he recognized his error he became a great apostle. So remember, your worst enemy could be a brother or sister in Christ in the future: the kindness you are willing to show could make a friend and ultimately lead to the salvation of a precious soul.
-Remember: If you love your enemies, you will stand out! The world has always been full of hate and violence. Hate and violence breed hate and violence, but those who respond to rage with gentleness stand out. Do you stand out because of your gentleness? In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said: "You are the light of the world, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." If you believe there's too much darkness in the world, then I challenge you to be a beacon of light! One way to do that is to love your enemies. People are constantly tempted by the allure of vengeance, but as Christians we are commanded to be merciful. I promise you: it will feel a lot better than pursuing vengeance!
-Remember: Your enemy has suffered, perhaps in ways you can't imagine! You know why people are angry? Because they're hurting. Do realize the cruelest individuals are often the ones in most desperate need of genuine affection. If you were hurting, wouldn't you want someone to show you kindness? So brothers and sisters, let me encourage you to show even the most outwardly vile people love. They really, really need it.
-Remember: You will not be forgiven if you are unwilling to forgive! Perhaps you've heard the 'five step plan of salvation'? 'Hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized.' It is true these are absolutely necessary things you must do to gain the grace of God, but I would encourage you to think bigger. MUCH BIGGER. Consider Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." To please God, YOU MUST CHANGE WHO YOU ARE! A complete metamorphosis is required: baptism is the beginning of your walk, not the end (Romans 6). Part of that change is learning to love forgiving people: this is a necessary component of your salvation! Consider the Lord's words in Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Don't simply be willing to forgive, but love forgiving those who hurt you. It will help heal your heart, and it might even melt the heart of your enemy.
-Remember: Your enemy has value in God's eyes! It's very easy for us to look at people who do evil things and write them off as 'idiots,' 'racists,' 'lunatics,' or 'worthless.' In fact, that's exactly what our adversary wants us to do: make superficial judgements, respond to anger with anger, and put our light under a basket. Brothers and sisters, we must resist that temptation! God values your enemies (II Peter 3:9, John 3:16-17). Consider the Lord's words: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Matthew 9:13). It's clear: God values your enemies. Shouldn't you?
-Remember: If you want to be like Jesus, you must love your enemies! If you haven't taken the time to consider the Lord's life lately, do meditate upon His deeds. You will find a scathing rebuke of the hypocritical scribes and pharisees in Matthew 23. Did Jesus say these things because He hated them? No: He said what needed to be said because He loved them. Do you remember what Jesus said of these men, even as nails were being driven through His flesh? "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). And you know what? Eventually some of the leaders changed! I've already mentioned Paul (then known as Saul), who was a willing partaker in the murder of our dear brother Stephen (Acts 8:57-60). Crispus, the leader of the synagogue at Corinth, chose to follow the Lord (Acts 18:8) and it is most likely his successor, Sosthenes, became a Christian as well (consider Acts 18:17 and I Corinthians 1:1). So if you want to be like Jesus, love your enemies. If you don't want to be like Jesus, be hateful and unmerciful.
-Remember: Even when you were the enemy of God, He loved you! Let's face it, we've all sinned. We've all hurt other people (I John 1:8, Romans 3:23, John 8:27). Even though we were once slaves to sin, God loved us anyway. How do we know that? Consider Paul's words in Romans 5:6-8: "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that we while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Clearly, God loved us before we changed. Shouldn't we be willing to do the same for our enemies?
Brothers and sisters, I know this is hard. I know you may not be able to truly love your enemies today, tomorrow, or even in a month. But that must be the goal. Begin to retrain your mind to love forgiving others. Digest your anger quickly (Ephesians 5:7). When hateful things enter your mind, reject them (Philippians 4:8). You can do this: this transformation of your heart is what it means to be a true follower of Jesus.