Who is your enemy? Perhaps you think of Satan or a political leader. Yet, it could be a family member, ex-spouse, neighbor or the person who just cut you off in traffic.
Obviously, it’s someone whom you do not love…or even like. However, Jesus tells us we must choose to love our enemies, despite our feelings.
In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus 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 and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” The word used for love in this passage is the Greek word, agape, which literally means “to will the good of another.”
James Bryan Smith, author of The Good and Beautiful Life, says, “When we hate our enemies we betray the God who loves His enemies. Conversely, when we pray for and bless those who curse us, we align ourselves with God and His kingdom. We are doing what Jesus did.”
Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 ESV). In this passage of Scripture the word “perfect” is not referring to moral flawlessness but instead to spiritual maturity.
Unconditional love is the most crucial expression of God’s character in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ.
Renee Napier could have easily labeled Eric Smallridge as her enemy. Eric was driving drunk one night, lost control of his car and struck another vehicle, instantly killing Renee’s 20-year-old daughter Meagan and her friend, Lisa. Convicted of DUI manslaughter, Eric was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Despite her pain and grief, Renee turned to Eric in the courtroom and expressed her forgiveness. Eric accepted responsibility for his actions and gave his life to Jesus Christ. Then Renee went the extra mile and got Eric’s sentence reduced in half. Now a free man, Eric and Renee together speak in schools about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Your enemies expose your total need for God’s unconditional love, mercy and grace. When you act out of gratitude and take opportunities to bless your enemies, you also may have open doors to share the Gospel with them.
As you practice unconditional love, Ray Pritchard of Keep Believing Ministries suggests seven ways to bless your enemies:
1. Greet them. One part of loving your enemies is to greet them graciously when you see them. Sometimes (often, perhaps) you can become quite adept at looking the other way, ducking
into a room, crossing the street, or even using Caller ID to keep from greeting those who have hurt you.
2. Disarm them. That’s what you do when you turn the other cheek or go the second mile. You disarm them by doing the very thing they least expect.
3. Do good to them. Doing good means that you do what will promote their healing despite the way they have treated you. You make the first move. You send the e-mail. You pick up the phone. You make the contact. You bridge the gap.
4. Refuse to speak evil of them. Refuse to think evil thoughts and to speak evil words against those who have wronged you. At some point, you have to stop talking and start forgiving.
5. Thank God for them. If you believe in the sovereignty of God, you must believe that your enemy is sent to you by God’s design and with God’s approval. Take a picture of your enemy, frame it and place it where you can see it. Thank God for your enemy every time you look at the picture.
6. Pray for them. What if you dislike the person? Tell that to the Lord. He won’t be surprised. Then say something like, “Lord, I dislike this person, but I ask You to love this person through me because I can’t do it in my own power.”
7. Ask God to bless them. When faced with someone who has mistreated you, ask God to do for them what you want God to do for you. Think of it this way: The greater the hurt, the greater the potential blessing that will come when you totally forgive and by God’s grace, bless those who curse you.
Holly Meade Rupert is a communications specialist/writer/speaker/teacher with a master’s degree in mass communication. She has extensive experience in creating content and producing for radio, television and the Internet.