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Loving Your Enemies


A new Christian approached me this week struggling with a question that was challenging his faith. He was emotionally and intellectually conflicted with all of the bible’s verses about loving our enemies. “How can a person do that?” he wondered to me out loud. Accidents of birth, geography, and numerous factors beyond his control, as well as his own very controllable poor personal choices allowed enemies to prey upon him in a variety of unpleasant ways. He has seen violence and wickedness. But I don’t believe his question was really about how a person can love an enemy. Almost no one has to be taught how to love someone. Most of us intrinsically know how to do that, even if it is only in the smallest of ways – which is why I think these particular verses are distressing to so many people. They know how to love an enemy, they just find doing it offensive, or sometimes even repulsive. So instead, I think his question was really about why a person would do that. So I took a moment to remind the new follower of Christ some essentials of the gospel.


First, every unsaved person is an enemy of God (Romans 5:10 NLT, James 4:4) . They may not know it, but they live in active opposition to God. If they take time to think about it they will realize that they push God away anytime he places some demand upon their lives that might interfere with the sin they enjoy. In turn, this tends to destroy God’s creation, and harm his people either directly or indirectly. Of course, this isn’t just true of unbelievers. Believers frequently have a push back against God in those same sin areas. However, the Spirit moves them, changes them, and transforms them over time to reject their sinful ways and to take delight in God’s purposes. They tend to pursue God again at some point. This is because they are friends of God. But even while we were enemies of God, he loved us and died for us (Romans 5:6-8). So we should love our enemies because that’s what God has done for us.


Secondly, as Christians, our example is Christ. The whole point of Christianity is to transform into something that resembles the character of Christ! A real conversion exists for every real Christian. But that isn’t necessarily a religious conversion in which we switch between sects or denominations. Rather, it is a spiritual conversion in which we are switching from friendship with the world to a God focused transformation. We are to become more like Jesus, and to reflect his character and behavior.


None of this means that we love our enemies by experiencing affection. It is true that affection is born from a mutual love. But these are ultimately two different things. Affection is something we experience, and love is something we do. Love is being committed to the wellbeing of another person. Sometimes that means offering them a drink when they’re thirsty. Sometimes it means gently but firmly telling them a painful truth. It always means being as kind as we can be in difficult circumstances. But regardless of whether or not we feel affection toward a hostile enemy, we are called by God to love them (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-31, Romans 12:20). That is what God did for us. And I’m glad he did that for me. My knowledge of that has forged and fostered in me a deep affection for the God who loves me in my ugliest moments. Even when I was his unsaved enemy, he was still Lord over me – whether I liked it or not. But now he is the Lord in whom I delight, and also my friend, as well as my highest, truest, royal father.

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