Loving our enemies sounds a lot more difficult than ignoring them and less entertaining than spiting them. Yet if you’re a believer, you’re called to love them. But that just seems impossible, right? In this 5-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe takes you through Scripture to show you what God says about who your enemies are and the secret to loving them.
Jesus Wants Me to What?
The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people. —G. K. Chesterton
Who is your enemy? You know the person—the one whose very name spikes your blood pressure. The person you avoid if at all possible. The person with whom you have full-length, imaginary debates.
I’m almost certain someone’s face came to mind as you read the above paragraph. I don’t know—call it a hunch—but I think this person might be your enemy.
As a new creation in Christ, what are we supposed to do with our enemies? Do we endure them? Do we defeat them? Do we educate them? Or can we ignore them?
These are great questions.
In Luke 6:27, Jesus speaks into this very question. He says, “To you who are listening I say: Love your enemies….”
Noooo. Surely, He didn’t mean it!
If you aren’t listening to Jesus, then you’re in the clear. You can endure, defeat, educate, and ignore.
But if you are listening to Jesus and if you desire to grow in your walk with Him, then He’s talking to you. And to you who are listening, He says, “Love your enemies.”
Did you notice Jesus made the word enemy plural?
He knew we couldn’t live in this broken world without accumulating a few enemies along the way. Jesus doesn’t question whether or not we have enemies. He assumes we have enemies and instructs us to love them.
How’s the blood pressure now?
Jesus, loving my enemies sounds a lot more difficult than ignoring them, and a little less entertaining than spiting them. But if love is the way of Your Spirit, I’m willing. Love through me. Free me in my relationships from resentment and pain. Amen.
How to Handle an Enemy
Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends? —Abraham Lincoln
Jesus has a very specific directive regarding our treatment of those who have wronged us or mistreated us. He says we are to love them. That’s not easy. In fact, it would be easier to ignore them, and maybe easier yet to tell them off at every given opportunity.
But love our enemies? How?
Well, Jesus has some ideas. He says, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them” (Luke 6:27b-29).
Before we look at how we’re supposed to treat our enemies, let’s look at how our enemies might treat us. In this list, Jesus defines the actions of an enemy:
- “Hate” implies active ill will in words and conduct. It’s a persecutor’s spirit.
- “Curse” means to wish evil and ruin on someone.
- “Mistreat” means to insult and to spite.
- To slap someone is to cause physical hurt or pain.
- To take a coat is to steal someone’s property. This property can be physical or intellectual, right?
What an amazing little picture of how our enemies treat us. They will have ill will toward us, wish evil upon us, insult us, hurt us, and steal from us.
And Jesus wants us to love them (Luke 6:27a). Not ignore them or tell them off, but love them.
Love them by doing good. Love them by blessing them. Love them by praying for them. Love them by showing gentleness. Love them by showing generosity.
It’s beautiful, but it also seems impossible. What do we do when something seems impossible? The way I see it, we have two choices: We can ignore Jesus. Or we can initiate a conversation with God who happens to specialize in making the impossible possible, and then trust Him to do it through us…
Lord, lead me in the dance of surrender this week toward someone who’s treated me badly—so I will bless a difficult someone, whether in conversation or action. Give me words to pray for those I’d rather forget. Relax my fists and give me an open hand, so I’ll be both generous and gentle with my enemies. Amen.
He Asks the Impossible
Every advancing step I take toward my goal of comfort is yet another retreating step I take away from God’s goal of the impossible. —Craig D. Lounsbrough
It seems a little cliché, right? To look at something impossible and say, “Nothing is impossible with God!”
But it’s not trite if it’s true.
When Jesus told us to love our enemies, I believe He knew we’d require His help in order to succeed. I believe He knew it was an impossible task apart from Him.
Recently, I was reading God’s instructions to Israel regarding the construction of the tabernacle. He gave detailed instructions. Tapestries were to be designed and made. The Ark of the Covenant needed to be constructed and put together. Then there was the lid to the Ark of the Covenant, which required both a cherubim and seraphim to be carved out of a single piece.
As I read through the instructions, I felt sorry for the Israelites. I mean, here they are with a 400-year history of being shepherds and brick makers in Egypt. And suddenly God takes them into the wilderness—with no tools, no kilns—and asks them to create something magnificent. God wanted world-class art right in the middle of the desert.
Sometimes God asks His people to do really hard things. But watch how He provides.
In Exodus 31:2-3, the Lord said to Moses, “I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri… and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills – to make artistic designs…”
Basically, the Lord gave a man hard instructions. Then the Lord empowered a man to complete the impossible.
So, when Jesus tells those who are listening to love their enemies, what He is saying is this: “I want you to do this impossible thing, and I will enable you to do as I ask.”
How? In the same way Bezalel created incredible art in the desert—through the empowering Holy Spirit.
Jesus, what freedom it is to admit Your instructions are hard—impossible! Thank You for exposing my own limitations with Your desire. In this impossibility of loving my enemies, I lean in to You. Empower me to release Your love in the most difficult of relationships. Amen.
When the Spirit Prays Through Us
Conflict doesn’t always mean we have to fight against something and tear it apart. Conflict can also mean we’re fighting for something to make it even better and stronger than it’s ever been. —Lysa TerKeurst
Exactly how does Jesus love our enemies through us?
Since Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever…
And since Jesus indwells believers at the moment of conversion…
Then as we surrender to Him, He will express Himself through us.
As He expresses Himself through us, our lives now will look very much like His life did then. And Jesus’ life was full of loving His enemies.
Let’s take a look at one epic scene of Jesus loving His enemies. In Luke 23:33-34, Jesus came to the place called the Skull. He was to be crucified there alongside criminals. But before He died, He prayed, “Father, forgive them…”
Using our checklist from yesterday, let’s define the “them” Jesus prayed for in His last moments:
- They wished evil on Jesus.
- They insulted Jesus.
- They physically assaulted Jesus.
- And they robbed Him of His life.
I believe this covers all the bases for enemy status according to Scripture. And yet Jesus shows His love by interceding for them with the Father.
This same Jesus rose again from the dead and now, by His Spirit, indwells us if we are believers. So guess what? He can love this way through us too.
We see this principle in action in the book of Acts, as the Holy Spirit works through Stephen, Christianity’s first recorded martyr. Stephen’s preaching landed him in trouble, and an angry mob decided to stone him. As men were pelting Stephen with large stones, he began to pray, “Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit.” Sound familiar? And also, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60).
Because Jesus’ Spirit lived in Stephen, Stephen was able to love those who were cruel to him. The same principle is true for us today.
Lord, I don’t see only love in Scripture. I see a bold love that comes from living in Your Spirit. I am eager to know what it looks like as it’s expressed in my own life. Will You cultivate this sort of bold love in me? Speak powerfully and lovingly through me, even in the hardest conflict. Amen.
Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love. —Mahatma Gandhi
If we’re honest, not all of us want to love our enemies. In fact, some of us rather enjoy the disdain we have for our enemies.
But now we know that Jesus desires to love our enemies through us, and that He makes this impossible task possible. Therefore, the question is no longer, “Can we love our enemies?” but rather “Will we love our enemies?”
If the answer is “Yes, we will,” then we need to figure out where to start.
Luke 6:31 reminds us to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
This isn’t the world’s way of loving, is it? The world says, “If you love me, I’ll love you.” The world’s rule is one of reciprocity. It is transactional. It’s conditional. It waits for someone else to make the first move.
Reciprocity isn’t Jesus’ way of loving. Jesus tells us to be initiators. Do to others as we would have them do to us. He says the first move is ours.
Some people call this verse the Golden Rule, and if we were looking for a formula for what Jesus did—this would be it. Jesus followed this rule.
But we aren’t looking for what Jesus did. We are looking for what He will do.
So, what will Jesus do? Jesus will love in the way He wishes to be loved, and He will love this way through us.
This is really good news because otherwise the Golden Rule would never work. If we tried to initiate love toward our enemies without first surrendering to Jesus, we’d end up feeling defeated. The ability to love our enemies is supernatural stuff, and only God can change our hearts in this way.
So, the next time you encounter your enemy and your blood pressure is rising, offer yourself to the Spirit and ask, What would it look like for You to love this person the way I wish this person loved me?
Jesus, am I an initiator of love in difficult relationships? Or do I wait to see how much love is given to me first and then give back proportionately? I long for You to initiate love moments through me starting today. I’m available, Jesus… Amen.
- Can you identify an enemy in your life whom God is calling you to love?
- Pray and ask God for His love to pour out of you toward your enemies.