Enemy. It’s a word that sounds straight out of a comic book. Super heroes have enemies, but every day people like us don’t. Or do we?
We live in a world right now where any opposing view point presents as an accusation – that we are wrong, that we are bad, that we are stupid. When we feel accused we get defensive, and put our guard up. We choose sides.
When that happens we tend to look at the people on the other side as our enemy. They are the people in this world who we disagree with so much that we will find almost no common ground.
In Matthew 5:38-48 Jesus acknowledges that we have enemy-like people in our lives. He even defines them for us:
- People who oppose us.
- People who try to hurt us.
- People who have harmful intentions and clear hostility toward us.
- People who demand things from us.
- People who literally persecute us.
Can you think of anyone like that in your life? Any names come to mind when you run them through the enemy filter?
Jesus not only defines our enemies, but tells what to do with them. Love them.
Loving our enemies is counter culture. It’s also counter to everything our heart is telling us to do. It’s not easy. If followers of Jesus are to take the difficult step of loving our enemies, what does that look like?
Jesus gives us three practical ways to love our enemies.
1. Pray for them
But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
Who do you typically pray for? People you want God to help. The challenge is that we don’t usually want God to help the people who are hurting us. But when we pray for them we are inviting God to move in their lives.
Pray for them what you would pray for yourself. Ask him to bless them, help them, lead them, and change them.
When God moves in a person’s life he always makes things better. He transforms hearts and attitudes. He brings peace where there is conflict. He brings hope when things seem hopeless. There is not a scenario where God moves in someone’s life and it doesn’t improve all of their relationships, both good and bad.
Bonus – when you pray for an enemy you are actually praying for yourself because you are inviting God to make a bad relationship better.
2. See their humanity
Our enemy is human just like us. We hare the same highs and lows of life. We are the same. Jesus puts it this way:
For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
We all put our pants on the same way. We all have dreams and ambitions. We all have families and friends. We all have struggles. We all wore diapers and had to learn to use the potty. We all get wet when it rains on us – and we all get rained on. We all need Jesus the same amount.
When we look past our conflicts to see the humanity of the people who oppose us it helps us to remember that they are loved and cherished by God just as we are. While we may never agree with them, we can relate to our shared joys and struggles in life. It allows us to see the common ground we share rather than just the disputes we fight over.
Seeing a person’s humanity makes it easier to love them, because you see that they are just like you.
3. Think of them as family
We all have those family members who rub us the wrong way. They push all the wrong buttons. They are the ones you take a deep breath (or a drink) before talking to at holiday get togethers.
But in spite of your differences, you still love them. You know that the family connection you share is more important than all the things you don’t. You may never be best friends, but because you are family you will always want the best for them.
If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Jesus said that we are to love others the way our perfect heavenly Father loved us. What did he do? He invited us to be part of his family. Through the blood Jesus shed on the cross he forgave our sins and offered us adoption as his sons and daughters.
We aren’t on the outside any more. As imperfect and unworthy as we are, he has invited us into his inner circle. And now he is asking us to go and do the same.
God thought of us as family, even when we opposed him and were fighting against him. If you are willing to love them like he loved us, your enemy is just future family.
We are called to be different. To interact with and move in this world the way Jesus did, and no on could ever accuse Jesus of going with the flow. He lived differently. He loved differently. We are called to be like him.
Love your enemies and see how God transforms both them and you.