If you could, you’d make sure everyone was happy with you. Normal people don’t want other people to hate them. But no matter how hard we try, eventually someone becomes our enemy.
You don’t have to hate someone for them to be your enemy. They just have to hate you. Romans 5:8, 10 explains, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
God didn’t hate us. He loved us. But the Bible says we were his enemy. Likewise, even if you don’t hate anyone on earth, this does not mean you don’t have enemies. As hard as we try, some people just don’t like us. They may hate you for your faith, your skin color, your gender, or just for the sound of your voice. Sinners sin, and often times sin comes in the form of hate.
We all have enemies. So what are we to do?
Love Your Enemies Through Good Deeds and Prayer
The Bible says we must love our enemies as God has loved us. But how does God love us? In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus explained:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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. 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 do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
God loves people by doing good for them even though they don’t deserve it. Jesus asks us to do the same. Whether it’s something as simple as a courteous greeting, or something a bit more grand, to reflect God we must do good for our enemies. In addition to doing good, we must pray for those who persecute us. The best prayer request will be for their salvation. If they are a Christian, the best prayer request will be for their walk with God.
None of that is easy to do. We will need to rely on the Holy Spirit. But honestly, that’s fairly basic stuff for most Christians. What about those people who are violently attacking us, trying to make our lives miserable? How do you love your enemies then?
Love Your Enemies By Leaving Judgment in God’s Hands, For Your Own Good and God’s Glory
Jesus washed his disciples feet. But he didn’t wash the Pharisees feet. I suspect he would have, but they hated him so much it would never have happened. So how do we love people like that?
Besides reading through the gospels to see how Jesus loved his enemies, another great example of loving an enemy can be seen through the life of David as he dealt with King Saul.
In one sense, David deserved to be able to kill his enemy Saul. Saul sought to kill David for no reason, even after all that David had done on the battlefield for the nation of Israel. Why shouldn’t David do the same?
On two different occasions David had the opportunity to kill Saul and take the kingdom for himself (1 Samuel 24, 26). His men encouraged him to do so, but on both occasions he resisted. He would not sin against God just to have earthly blessings for himself. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul (Mark 8:36)?
Saul deserved David’s hatred. Surely we all can relate to David’s experience with the “Sauls” in our lives. David knew, however, that although Saul had it coming, if he went against God’s ways to gain for himself a blessing, he would lose not only the blessing but himself in the process, like Saul did.
Saul went mad because his sinful pursuit of David actually recoiled on himself. That’s always the effect of our hatred towards others. Sure Saul made David’s life difficult for many years, but the person he hurt the most in his hatred of David was himself. In the end, Saul brought about his own destruction because of his rebellion towards God and his hatred towards David.
David on the other hand, had the motivation to love his enemy Saul because he sought what was best for himself and his relationship with God. He waited for the Lord to avenge, even though Saul deserved his hatred, for he did not want to be an “evildoer” and thus hurt his walk with God (1 Samuel 24:12,13).
Likewise, David deserved to kill Nabal as well, but Abigail convinced David to spare Nabal by appealing to how David’s conscious would be guilty if he did (1 Samuel 25:31). For his own sake he spared his enemy Nabal the evil he deserved. David said to Abigail, “May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands” (1 Samuel 25:33).
Love Your Enemies and Don’t Touch Them
In life, people often deserve our hatred, our anger, and our lack of forgiveness. And yet when we give people the evil they deserve, the person we are hurting the most is ourselves.
God will punish those who seek our harm, or take their punishment on himself if they put their faith in Jesus. No one is getting away with anything. The only thing we accomplish when we take matters into our own hands is our own harm. The proper response to the Sauls in our lives is David’s, “And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you” (1 Samuel 24:12).
He then adds, “As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you” (1 Samuel 24:13). If David would have sinned against his enemies who sinned against him, he knew the only thing he would have proved was that he was evil like them. None of this means David just let Saul abuse him. David protected himself, just as we should do when our enemies try to hurt us physically, verbally, or emotionally. But by sparing his enemy the deserved punishment, David benefited himself.
Like Christ, who humbled himself on the cross for our sake who was then honored with the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:5-11), we too are benefited when we lay our rights down and treat our enemies better than they deserve through the power of God given to us in Jesus Christ for his glory and our good.
We must love our enemies through good deeds, through prayer, and through allowing God alone to avenge the wrongs done to us – all through the grace of God and for the glory of God.