One of the more well-known commands in Scripture is the command to “Love your enemies.” This was true when Jesus said it. And it’s still true for Christians today. The upcoming election and intense political strife of this season means all Christians need this reminder.
“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.”Jesus (Matthew 5:43-45)
Christians and their Enemies
Everyone has enemies. It’s just a fact of life. The question is what you do with them.
Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant presents a severe warning for his disciples. In this parable, Jesus tells of a servant who was forgiven the debt of a lifetime by a merciful king. After having his own debt cancelled, he crosses paths with someone who owes him money then has them arrested and imprisoned until it is repaid in full. The man is rebuked and punished for his hypocrisy.
Jesus makes it clear that the Christian’s disposition should be marked by grace and mercy. Our attitude towards enemies must be anchored in the gospel. For, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Because we have received the grace of God, we give it.
Stop and ask, “What if God treated me the way I treat my enemies?” When Christians are harsh and mean-spirited towards their enemies they are not reflecting Christ, but the worldliness they have been called to turn away from.
Leave Your Enemies in God’s Hands
Have you ever heard someone resist your correcting by saying, “Only God can judge me!” Honestly, this is a terrifying truth. God is the judge, and his judgment will not miss the mark. He is perfectly just, and every sin will be revealed before him. The above statement is true, but it doesn’t give permission to “live and let live.”
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”Apostle Paul (Romans 12:19)
While the section above emphasizes grace and mercy towards one’s enemies, Christians are able to do that because they trust God’s judgment above their own. Evil will not go unpunished. But because God is love, Jesus took that punishment for us… and for those who confess and repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus Christ. That invitation stands for our enemies.
So far, this is generally safe territory for Christians. The challenge comes when are asked whether or not we can celebrate over our enemy’s salvation. Are you willing to pray for him, worship and study the Bible with him, and minister to his children as fellow-members of the body of Christ? Or do you simply quote Romans 12:19 as a message of doom against those who have sinned against you?
Trust God’s judgment upon others as much as you trust his judgment upon yourself.
Loving Your Enemies
Christians carry the name of Christ. When we spread hate and judgment, we do so in the name of Christ. When we speak online with harsh words that we would be ashamed to say in front of our mother or pastor, we are still doing so in the name of Christ. In addition to many other commands these actions break – they break the 3rd Commandment: Thou shall not dishonor the name of the LORD your God.
Loving your enemy doesn’t mean you pretend they are a friend. That’s exactly what makes it so unique – it’s unnecessary, surprising, and you probably receive zero benefit from showing this kind of mercy. If you only love those who love you back, and if you only give to those who give back to you… then you’re no different from everyone else in the world. But if you love your enemy who believes and expects the worst about you then that’s truly Christlike. You can call this loving your enemy or you can call it Christian Tolerance, but it starts with generosity towards your enemy while continuing to acknowledge the important differences that continue to exist.
May our actions, words, and attitudes bring honor to the name of Christ Jesus. What if we stopped arguing back, and took a posture of genuine mercy?
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”Romans 12:14-21