In this article we want to notice what can be the most difficult command concerning love. It is easy to love those who love you in return. You love God and Christ realizing how much they loved you. You love your family naturally because of the bond. And if your bond toward your brethren is what it ought to be, it too will be easy.
Neighbors that are cordial to you are treated with kindness with no problem. BUT, what about your enemy? What about the person that has been treating you harshly? What about the one who has slandered your name?
Let us notice what the Bible says about loving your enemies.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasted the way man rationalizes his treatment of others with what God expects. He said, "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. " (Matthew 5:43-48)
Jesus began by observing the common attitude of many in that day, and an attitude that is equally present in this age. He noted man's rationalization to love his neighbor as long as he is your friend and pleasant to be with. Man often reasons that if one is your enemy you can despise him and even curse him. BUT, Jesus said, the Christian must love his enemies.
The word love here is agape which means caring enough about someone that you are willing to sacrifice for him. It means to treat them properly regardless of who they are or what they have done. The golden rule (Matthew 7:12) applies here, as well as Jesus' answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" -Luke 10:25-37.
To love your enemies does not mean you treat them with the same closeness and sharing you have for your brethren, family and friends. It simply means you treat them RIGHT! You treat them like human beings with a soul that will spend eternity somewhere. You act humanely toward them in your speech and actions.
Jesus gave some examples of loving your enemy in our text. First, He said, "bless those who curse you". That means that you wish the best toward those who invoke evil upon you. Paul repeated this saying, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse" (Romans 12:14).
Jesus gave us an example of this while upon the cross. He prayed to God, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Too often, man wants to retaliate cursing with more cursing. James while speaking about the tongue said not to do this. He said of the tongue, "With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so" (James 3:9-10).
Peter wrote, "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. " 1 Peter 3:8-9. Christian love will wish even his enemy well.
Next Jesus said, "Do good to those who hate you." The first statement deals with what we say about our enemies. This one deals with what we do for them. Summed up, you treat them well, regardless of what they do to you.
To the Romans Paul wrote, "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. (Romans 12:17-21).
In this text Paul addresses the frustration on might have about his enemy not receiving the reward he deserved. He points out that when you do good to your enemy, you heap coals of fire upon his head. In other words, you cause ALL the evil to be charged to him.
When one retaliates with evil for evil, he shows that he is not any better than the one who did him harm. This is how feuds start. But if you conduct yourself honorably and above reproach, even when you are wronged, the entire fault falls squarely upon the evildoer. And besides this, Paul reminds us that an evil doer will NOT get away with treating you harshly. God, the flawless Judge, will take vengeance upon him.
Realize also that this does not mean you have to keep putting yourself in harms way. If it possible to avoid your enemy you should do that. This within itself is doing him good, because you are preventing him from making matters worse for himself.
You also find in Paul's message some examples of what good you are to do even for your enemies. He said to feed them when they are hungry. This is just one thing that shows the general goodness we are to show to all men. Other specific examples could include helping them move a broken down car out of the way, taking them some place they need to go, letting them know your real concern when they encounter disaster and even taking opportunity to teach them the gospel.
The final thing Jesus said in our text was, "Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." Here we find another specific example of what you can do: pray for them. Can you think of one who needs prayers more than the bitter, hateful heart? This is what Jesus did on the cross. Stephen did the same thing to his enemies as they were stoning him to death (Acts 7:60).
When one prays for his enemies he prays that something will be done to change the bitter conflict. He prays that God will give himself a proper attitude. He prays for the well being of all involved. How much better would this world be if everyone prayed for his enemies instead of retaliating. This shows a true understanding of Christian love.
Thus we can see the need for love in every relationship in the Christian's life. I ask, is God pleased with the way you love your enemies?