Love Your Enemies

Jun 12, 2024 | The Chuck Wagon

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…”  Matt. 5:44-45a; NASB

This passage, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, is one of those we all know but fail miserably in its application. There are many such passages in this discourse recorded in Matthew chapters 5 through 8. We know them or we have heard them but because of their difficulty; we fail to pay much attention to our application of them. It is easy to justify our feelings toward our enemies by convincing ourselves we are in the right when offended or done wrong by someone. That is not healthy, nor is it how God wants us to act. Although sometimes in the Old Testament God instructed Israel not to pray for specific nations, it was for those times only (see Deut. 23:3-6). Those situations no longer existed once Jesus arrived.

Solomon wrote, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;” (Prov. 25:21). This might seem difficult to understand if someone has deeply offended you in the past. Godly love is an action, not a feeling. Loving your neighbor does not mean friendship or any sort of one-on-one relationship. It can mean all of that, but does not require any of it. Loving someone means you desire for them to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. With that comes a desire for them to do well and not suffer hardship. It is that desire that will lead you to pray for their salvation, their prosperity, and for God’s blessing over them. That can be difficult if they have hurt or offended you.

The apostle Paul reinforced Solomon’s words by quoting him when he wrote: “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Rom. 12:20). In ancient Egypt, when someone wanted to show remorse for their wrongdoing publicly, they would carry a pan of burning coals on their head for all to see. This represented the burning pain of their shame. Jesus modeled this on the cross when He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). Later, when Peter, in his first sermon, confronted the Jews with what they had done, this happened: “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart…” (Acts 2:37a). They were ashamed of what they had done. Later in Acts, we are told of Stephen, who, while being stoned to death for nothing more than loving Jesus and speaking truth, cried out: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60b). He then immediately died. To the point of death, he loved his enemies.

These are obviously extreme situations, and that is the point. Even as extreme as those circumstances were, there was no animosity. Loving those who agree with you or treat you well is easy. Jesus put it like this: “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Mt. 5:47). Our desire to be sons of our Father in heaven should be the driving force of loving our enemies. We should need no other reason than that. It should be our sincere desire to become “perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Loving your enemies is part of the process. Embrace it and praise the Lord.

God bless and have a great week

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