love your enemy

How to Love Your Enemy

love your enemyLoving your enemy

Love is an emotion, but it is also an action of the will. It is not natural to love someone we hate, or someone who hates us. Nor is it natural to do good to someone who has harmed us. Yet, that is what God requires. Loving your enemy is possible and it is do-able.

I know this, not because it is merely an idea, but because it works. Actions of our will bring about the results God desires in us. This I know is true because I have experienced it myself.

It seems that under Old Testament law, it was assumed to be okay to hate one’s enemy. Yet, Exodus gives an example of what one should do concerning an enemy. Jesus gave us a pattern for loving our enemies. When we follow this pattern, we can succeed in loving our enemies.

Who is my enemy?

An enemy is  a person – or a nation – that is actively opposed to someone or something.  An enemy is one who harms or weakens another. There are subtle enemies and there are blatant enemies. Their intent is to take us down – whether it’s by lack of support, by thwarting, lying, or espionage.

Someone who is against you or does not want you to succeed is not a friend; he is an enemy. Learn to recognize your enemies so you can practice doing what Jesus said you should do.

love your enemy
photo by sergio cerrato-italiz

Three things to do so you can love your enemy

Jesus gave specific instructions to His disciples on how to respond to an enemy. Leviticus also gives instructions for those who want to live right. These things are not easy, but they are necessary if you want to follow HIs command to love your enemies..

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus addressed the enemy problem. He gave three things we must do for our enemies. They are not an option. Doing these things will give you a desire to care about your enemy.

  • Love your enemies. This is an action of your will and follows with emotion.
  • Do good to your enemies. Leviticus gives us an example: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. ”  In writing to the Romans, Paul gave examples of how to treat someone who is our enemy: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” This is the opposite of what comes naturally to us. Of course it is opposite, because we live in an upside-down kingdom!
  • Pray for your enemies. When we sincerely pray for our enemies, we no longer view them as an enemy, but as someone in need. This is what happens to me when I pray for Putin. I see him as the lost soul that he is.

What not to do

  • Do not carry a grudge or try to retaliate. These are specific instructions for the follower of Jesus.
  • Do not ignore the person even though it would be easier.
  • Do not share your frustrations with other people.

Nixing these ideas or opportunities helps keep your mind clear of wanting to return evil for evil. Loving your enemy involves doing something for the person. It also involves refusing to do evil in response.

The end result

When we follow these principles, we experience freedom, relief, forgiveness, and blessing. Getting there is not easy; sometimes we take three steps forward and two steps back. Yet, it is the worth the struggle and the strain for the triumph.

How have you learned to love your enemy? I’d love to hear from you.


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  1. This is a hard one Gert. In theory and in principle it sounds good but to actually apply this is another story. When someone fails you so terribly your entire life and wants only ill will for you, it is hard to love and forgive. It also becomes difficult to “honor” when it seems no honor is deserved. I would hardly say that I can love this individual but I can pray for her. As a grown woman it does not stop the longing to have been nurtured in the way most people have been. Just being honest.

  2. Hi Karen,
    Thanks for dropping, and for being so honest. You are so right. The principle is easy but the application is so hard.
    Forgiveness does not mean we trust the person who failed us. It means we no longer hold them responsible for our pain and carry the weight of that responsibility and bitterness with us.
    We honor because that person is a soul created in the image of God – a soul whom Jesus died for. It does not mean we give accolades to that person, and it does not mean we defend the person. It simply means we are as unworthy of the love of Christ as are they.
    Sometimes we forgive – and then have to forgive again because we’ve picked up the grudge again. 🙁 It is one of Satan’s ploys.
    I do know that the more we practice these principles, the easier it becomes.
    In the times I struggle, I remember the story of Corrie Ten Boom; she, along with her family was imprisoned during WWII. Following the war, she spoke to a group about the forgiveness of God. Following the service, a former guard who had required her and other prisoners to strip naked in front of him came to her, extended his hand, and asked her forgiveness. Corrie did not want to forgive; she did not feel like forgiving, but she had just spoken on forgiveness! She did the next thing. She reached out her hand to shake his; and it was at that moment, she said, that she felt the forgiveness flow through her veins to him.
    Sometimes we have to do the next thing – and the next – and the next – before we feel that forgiveness come. God is faithful.
    Keep praying! Loving our enemy is not natural and it is not easy. But with God . . . !
    Bless you – and hugs to you!

  3. Thanks Gert for understanding and wisdom. I do know the story of Corrie Ten Boom and the guard. To me the big difference is…..the guard had become a Christian and was remorseful. That is not the situation in my case. I know I am supposed to be the bigger person because I know the teachings of Christ but it remains a very difficult journey. As you said, sometimes we forgive and then have to forgive again….and again…..and again. I do love your insight into things and always look forward to your blog even though I may not comment. God bless you!

  4. Karen,
    I’m so sorry for the pain of what you are experiencing. Yes, it is easier to forgive when the person recognizes the wrong and even asks for forgiveness. I have no great “3-steps-and-you’re-done to give you.” I only know it is a command of Christ and we get to choose if we will respond. I only know it is not an easy road – but I do know that His grace is enough. And I know that He asks nothing of us that He Himself has not done. Little steps, my friend! I care.
    PS Thanks for the kudos!

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