Jesus said, “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”
Luke 6:35 NLT
It’s usually easy to love those who love you and are kind to you, but it’s often difficult to love people who hate you. In the Old Testament, there is the commandment to “Love Your Neighbor as yourself”. Your neighbor could potentially be your enemy, however we have often justified disliking people who do us harm by saying they aren’t “neighbors” or our anger is righteous.
But even if we are angry, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love our enemies. Ephesians 4: 26-27 states ‘Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.’ It is a tragedy when a person determines their loved one had an affair and then the person goes and kills them in revenge. Romans 12:19 says Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.
It can be hard not to seek revenge on someone who has wronged us. I have wondered, how is it that a person could do such harm and not be held accountable? But then I consider, often the person is having consequences for their actions, it’s just not the consequences we would have liked.
I go back to the 10 Commandments when I consider what the Bible says about seeking vengeance. In all of the Commandments, it doesn’t have exceptions to committing murder, theft, adultery or bearing false witness. It doesn’t say, You shall not commit murder, unless your spouse had an affair. These things hold true to the statement “Two wrongs don’t make a right”, Benjamin Rush. We often seek vengeance in hopes to feel better about the wrong that was done to us.
Now that I’ve discussed the reasons why it’s difficult to love our enemies, I’ll explain how to love them.
I consider being wronged by someone is similar to losing a loved one to death or a breakup. We must go through the grief process without sinning. The 2nd stage of grief is Anger, and in this stage, we have the desire to seek vengeance (sin) against the enemy. This vengeance could be minimal, like lying about the person, saying something mean back, or it could be more serious like physically assaulting them, vandalizing their property or even killing them.
But instead of acting out in anger, we can do healthier things like seeking God through the Bible and prayer and going to counseling. Through this process, we can seek to forgive the person who wronged us, even if they don’t ever admit to their wrong. I know, this can be difficult to do, but if you are believer in Christ, you understand the grace that Christ has bestowed on you and the sins He has forgiven you for. Understanding this grace makes it easier to forgive others. The book Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren, helped me forgive someone who had wronged me. This person never apologized, but I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders the moment I made the decision to forgive.
Once you are able to forgive, the next step is to pray for the person. Matthew 5:43-45 says “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” This scripture is very similar to Luke 6:35 (mentioned above), but adds the word ‘pray’. I have found it much easier to pray for my enemies once I have forgiven them.
What do you pray for them you may ask? For one, don’t pray for evil or vengeance to be done, that’s not loving! I pray for my enemies to come to the Lord. It saves their soul and pleases God. Luke 15:7 says “I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance.”
Forgiving and praying for our enemies’ salvations are the best things we can do to love them. In loving someone who is dangerous, doesn’t mean continuing to be harmed by them. You can read my prior posts on recognizing a dangerous person and leaving a dangerous person. I used to think that loving a person meant staying near them even if they were harmful. Proverbs 22: 24-25 states: Don’t befriend angry people
or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them
and endanger your soul.
I get it that we can’t totally isolate people who are hot tempered. I don’t think Jesus intended for us to never be kind to hot-tempered people. But in the moment when a person is having angry outbursts, we shouldn’t be in their presence unless we are professionally treating them (police officers or psychiatrists). I do believe there is hope for people who have anger problems, but there are professionals who can help those. And in some situations, prison may be the best option for the person to change their ways.
I pray that you have found this helpful. I pray for comfort and healing for trauma that you may have experienced.