I hope that in your life you are surrounded by those who love you. But sometime in your life you will encounter someone who may be you enemy. Who is your enemy? It is someone who hates you or is hostile towards you, someone who seeks to inflict physical or emotional harm, someone who is opposed to the righteousness that you stand for as a Christian, someone who seeks to take from you what you have, someone who slanders you, or simply someone who is against you. Jesus taught you how you should deal with your enemies. Matthew 5:43-48 “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; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 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? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Your natural reaction to your enemies is to focus on the injustices you receive from them. Your carnal reaction may be to hate them, to be hostile to them and to say hateful things to them. You naturally want to tell everyone how badly you have been mistreated. You may want to destroy your enemies. Didn’t the Israelites of old follow God’s direction and destroy their enemies? It is natural to think that “you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But God never said that. Now you are commanded to love your enemies.
Before you were saved, consider what your relationship was with God. Romans 5:6-10 “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 toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” As a sinner, you were an enemy of God. But He loved you. He considered your need for salvation and demonstrated His love toward you by sending Christ to die for you. God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He further loves mankind when “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
Just as God loved you, even when you were His enemy, you in turn should love your enemies. You should do good to your enemies just as God does good to both the just and the unjust. You should want your enemies to be saved just as God wants all to be saved. You have to separate the sin from the sinner. You hate the sin, but you love the sinner. Rather than focusing on the injustices (sin) you receive from your enemies, see them as individuals who are hurting and have needs to include their need for salvation.
So how are you to treat your enemies? First, you are to bless those who curse you. That means you give them good words for their bad words. You wish them well. It is not that you want them to continue in their evil ways, but rather that you want them to have good things in their life and eventually eternal life. You pray to God that His blessings may be given to them. You can only sincerely do this if you really love your enemies.
Second, you are to do good to those who hate you. You greet them in kindness. You open the door for them when they enter or exit a building. You pick up what they have dropped. You feed them when they are hungry. You give them a cup of cold water if they are thirsty. You give them a gift if you see they have a need. If there is some way you can serve them, you do so. You can only sincerely do this if you really love your enemies.
Lastly, you are to pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. This isn’t a prayer that God will exercise his vengeance upon them. Rather it is a prayer that their hearts will be changed and that they will find God. Since you love your enemies, you want the best for them. So you pray that good will come into their lives. You can only sincerely do this if you really love your enemies.
The Apostle Paul put it a different way in Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
My encouragement to you is to love your enemies. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.