Hate Your Enemies or Love Your Enemies?

Recently I was flipping through the book of Psalms looking for inspiration and came across the verse, “Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.”  (Ps 18:40) In Psalm 18, David is giving thanks to God for delivering him from his enemies, but he goes further and delights in the fact that he was able to destroy his enemies.

A lot of people who claim to be Christians, sometimes even church leaders, take this verse, and others like it, as justification for using whatever means possible to defeat their enemies.  Sometimes they take it to the extreme and even pray for the death of their opponents simply because of differences on political, moral, or theological issues.

Whoa!  Let’s stop right there.

If you are going to claim to follow Christ, maybe you should actually obey Jesus’ teachings about the best way to deal with enemies.

“Love Your Enemies…”

Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,”  Matt 5:43,44

What a contrast between the way King David and the Son of David (the Messiah, Christ Jesus) dealt with their enemies.

Now you may be thinking:  Hey the Old Testament was all about killing your enemies and the idea of loving your enemies was a new idea that Jesus preached.

Surprise, surprise!  Jesus learned everything he knew from God and from the Scriptures (which in his case was what we call the Old Testament).

There are several accounts of expressing love to enemies in the older Scriptures.  One that I love is II Kings 6:8-23.  This is the story where the King of Syria is fighting with the King of Israel and Elisha the prophet tells the latter where the former is going to be with his army over and over.  The King of Syria thinks one of his people is betraying his battle plans to the Israelites, but he finds out that Elisha is telling the King of Israel.

So, the Syrian king does the obvious thing to do from his perspective; he finds Elisha, surrounds his town with a great army and plans to capture him and who knows what else.  But he is no match for the prophet.  Elisha causes the soldiers to be temporarily smitten with blindness.  Then he leads them to the king of Israel.  The king is so flabbergasted he doesn’t know what to do and asks Elisha if he should kill this enemy army.   Elisha says absolutely not but give them something to eat and drink and send them home to their king.  And their sight is restored in the process.

The results of loving your enemies

What is the result of this loving gesture to the enemy?  “The bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.”  So the result of loving the enemy was peace.  Guess what the results are when you hate your enemy?  You got it.   The opposite of peace.  If the king of Israel had killed the Syrians, there would have been retaliation and revenge on the minds of any remaining Syrians.

Here are some more goodies from the Old Testament:

Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:  Proverbs 24:17

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:  Proverbs 25:21

But you know, loving your enemies goes against one of the most basic human emotions of getting back at someone who does something mean to you or being mean to someone who hates you.

It takes spiritual discipline and God’s grace to love your enemy.  I speak from experience over many years of striving to be obedient to Jesus’ command, “love your enemies.”

If I did it, so can you

Once a co-worker seemed to be determined to undermine my character and ability to do my job.  Admittedly, I made my share of mistakes at work, but his piercing criticisms were not offered constructively and were far from subtle.  However, I never retaliated or tried to make him look bad.  I kept loving him and praying for God to show us both more of His love.  Over time, his harsh judgment of me ceased and we had a pleasant relationship.  This was God’s doing!

But loving your enemies does not mean loving the bad things they do.  Jesus said not to judge things by the outward appearance. (See John 7:24)  He looked deeper for something to love.  Underneath all the hate that his enemies hurled at him, he could still love the someone as a child of God.

Of course, this is hard to do when they are not acting like a child of God.  But this is the Cross.  Take it up.  The more you love your enemies, the easier it gets and the sooner they will cease to be your enemies.

If Jesus can forgive those who crucified him while he was hanging from the Cross, then you and I can forgive, i.e. love our enemies, whatever they may do.

Is there someone in your life playing the role of enemy?  You don’t have to condone their behavior.  Just love them.  Did it ever occur to you that the reason they are hateful is because they don’t feel any love in their lives—that they are actually crying out for love?

Give them what they need…love

Now take a moment to love that person and pray for something good to happen to them.  Go ahead.  Bless them with all the blessings you can pour out from your heart.  God is helping you do this.  You can’t do it all by yourself.  If you can’t figure out how on earth to get started with such a prayer, try something like, “Dear God, bless my enemies and teach me to feel compassion for them.”  The words are not as important as the sincerity in your heart.

And while you’re at it, pray for some of the enemies on the world stage to find love for one another.

I’d love to hear how you have loved and blessed your enemies.

Blessings to all,

James

  • http://Website Debbie Creamer

    Hi Mr. Early,
    This is Debbie formerly from Chase Bank. I LOVE your newsletters and the passages you pick. Mostly, I love your feedback, so I decided I would write and tell you what a great job you are doing. You always make me think and I also share your message with my family.
    THANKS.
    Debbie Creamer

  • Pingback: Inspiration For Those With Enemies. | 7Wins.eu()

  • http://www.savannahfirefighter.com Dave Evans

    The words of love from our Bible and Our Lord are much needed today…as has been true throughout time.

    Today we face an enemy that teaches its followers to lie, deceive and kill. Examples of their willingness to follow these commands are present daily from every news agency on the globe.

    The Love of Christ will prevail and He will exact His judgement. He has revealed His plan to us through His Word. We Christians have known this day was coming for 2,000 years.

    Love them all and let God sort them out.

  • http://Website DoStudyDontJustReadTheBible

    .

    When the Bible says that people are to pray “FOR”
    their enemies — it does NOT mean to pray that God
    will “bless” the enemy (materialistically-speaking).

    IT MEANS that the person is to pray “IN REGARDS TO”
    the enemy — in other words — rather than to try to seek
    a ‘personal revenge’ against the person — they are to,
    instead, “bring the matter to God” and to let God
    “do whatever it takes” for the enemy to either be
    brought to ‘repentance’ or to suffer ‘repercussions’.

    Only someone who is truly ignorant in studying the
    Bible (in the original Greek and Hebrew in which it
    was originally written) would ever be so arrogant or
    foolish as to think that Christ would command that
    His followers pray for Him to materiallistally-“bless”
    someone who is trying to destroy His own followers.

    God says that He WILL take-vengeance on His
    enemies AND on the enemies of His followers (who,
    by the way, are also the enemies of God, by default).

    When someone is causing or serving as a major hindrance,
    obstacle or source of torture in the life of a servant of God
    — God COMMANDS that His servants are to then “bring
    the matter to Him” (i.e. pray “FOR” / “IN REGARDS TO”)
    that person and “let God deal with them as they deserve”.

    Again – to “pray FOR” one’s enemy means that one
    is “praying IN REGARDS TO” that enemy – just
    as to “bless” one’s enemy means that one decides to
    ‘share with them the blessed good news of the gospel
    of Jesus Christ’ (thus, giving them the opportunity to
    serve and follow Him) rather than to ‘curse’ them
    (by not sharing the gospel) into an eternity in hell. =D

    .

  • James Early

    Hi DSDJRTB,

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    You’re right, Christ certainly does not intend for us to pray for our enemies to be “materialistically” blessed. The kind of blessing Jesus had in mind is spiritual and leads one to God.

    So the question remains, How do we love our enemies? I’d love to hear how you have been able to follow this teaching of Jesus Christ. It’s not always easy and you might have an experience that will help someone else.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Blessings to you,
    James

  • http://Website DSDJRTB

    Hi James,

    Thank you for posting my commentary. =D

    It was very kind of you – and I know that my
    view on this topic is not and will not be found
    among those of the more popular views.

    For me … obeying Christ command to ‘love’,
    ‘forgive’, ‘bless’ and pray ‘for’ (i.e. “in regards
    to) those who have made and proven themselves
    to be my ‘enemies’ has been a difficult journey.

    key athe reasons for this difficulty – has been
    other ‘christians’ attempting to indoctrinate
    me with the new false teaching that seems
    to be spreading in western congregations
    in which they claim that, as a christian’,
    “IF you have TRULY “forgiven” others
    THEN you should have NO PROBLEM
    with asking God to bless them with ‘things’.

    When I pointed out that their teachings are
    both illogical and unbiblical — seeing that
    often the best way to ‘love’ a person is to
    simply ‘hand them over to God’ and just
    let them have to take whatever justice
    (whether it’s in the form of discipline,
    judgment or gentle, patient guidance)
    that God decides to render to them —
    I was told that I was “unforgiving”.

    People often forget that while the Bible
    forbids us to “rejoice over” our enemies
    downfall — it does NOT forbid us to
    “pray for” it to occur (if necessary).

    There are places all over the world (in both
    western and non-western nations) where
    ‘christians’ are suffering unimaginable
    horror — and for western churches to
    (in such a time as this) suddenly begin to
    spread this recent (I am assuming) and
    false teaching that we are to spend our
    time asking God to materialistically-bless
    those who destroy His spiritual-bride is
    both unbiblical and also utterly insane.

    The BEST way any ‘christian’ could ever
    “bless” or pray “for” or show “forgiveness”
    to or “love” someone who has proven
    themselves to have been their enemy —
    is to obey Christ’s Great Commission and
    to “share the good news of who Christ is”
    — thus providing that enemy with the
    opportunity to ‘taste of’ The Bread of
    Life and to ‘drink from’ the cup of
    The Living Water … with which that
    person will NEVER ‘hunger’ or
    ‘thirst’ (spiritually-speaking) again.

    The ‘battles’ that we, as ‘christians’ fight
    are of a ‘spiritual’ nature (and not truly
    physical or material) – and thus, it only
    makes sense that the ‘blessings’ that we
    provide to our enemies should also largely
    focus on that of being of a ‘spiritual’ nature.

    [This is stated with the full understanding that, as
    a part of the spiritual-battles for which we are to
    be girded – our physical and material needs
    (and those of our enemies) must also be met
    — but — while the physical, material, financial,
    social, etc. ARE ‘factors’ in the battles that we
    face – they ARE NOT to be the ‘focus’ of them.

    The same can be said regarding that of showing our
    ‘love’ for; ‘forgiveness’ of; ‘blessings’ toward and
    praying ‘for’ our enemies … in all of this, I truly
    feel that our focus is to be more on the ‘spiritual’
    for them than it would ever be for, the ‘material’.

    In fact, sometimes. God shows “tough love” toward
    our enemies (and even His own spiritual-children) by
    taking ‘material’ items away from them (and even us)
    in an effort to bring about repentance from wrong ways.

    For us, as ‘christians’ to misunderstand Christ’s desire
    for us to “bless” our enemies (by sharing with them the
    truth of who He is) and to replace the “blessing” of them
    being given an opportunity to ‘know’ Him with that of
    cheap, temporal, perishable “things” (as many churches
    falsely teach people to do today) displays an insult to
    Christ; an injury to the person; and an insincerity by us.

    The decision to and purposeful actions of showing
    ‘love’ toward; ‘forgiveness of’, ‘blessing’ upon; and
    and praying ‘for’ our enemies are all reflections of
    the actions of ‘the Pearl of great price’ (with the Pearl
    being Christ and the price being the Cross; and our
    ‘reflection’ being that of being “of the imitation t
    of Christ” .. i.e. being Christ-like or ‘christian’).

    Christ Himself told us to NOT cast our “pearls”
    (i.e. our actions of being a ‘reflection’ of Him
    and of His ‘image’) to “swine” – and I believe
    that, in this, — He was commanding that we NOT
    ‘waste any opportunity’ to ‘share the good news
    of who He is and what He has done for us all’
    with anyone (including our personal enemies).

    [Note:

    In addition to this – I also believe that He was
    instructing that, if people choose to reject the
    amazing ‘gifts’ being offered to them (love,
    forgiveness, prayer, blessing, prayer, etc.) —
    via remaining ‘unrepentant’ and ‘uncontrite’
    — we, as ‘christians’ are also allowed to then
    ‘wipe the dust off our feet’ and to ‘move on’
    and not ‘waste’ our ‘pearls’ in such a situation.

    Christ Himself (as well as the apostle Paul, etc.)
    literally walked away from both people and even
    entire towns that rejected the good-news of Him.

    Even after ‘moving on’, however, we are still free to
    pray ‘for’ (in regards to the person) and that God will
    ‘let whatever it takes’ to occur in their lives in order for
    them to repent; confess and make amends (if at all possible)
    — and thus possible ‘pluck them from the coals’ of damnation.

    Sorry if I sound ‘preachy’ or anything (as that was NOT
    my intent) – but – I really wanted to speak out on this topic
    and appreciate your allowing me to share this on your forum.

    Thank you very much and please have a wonderful day.

    — DSDJRTB

  • http://Website DSDJRTB

    Hi James,

    Thank you for posting my commentary. =D

    It was very kind of you – and I know that my
    view on this topic is not and will not be found
    among those of the more popular views.

    For me … obeying Christ command to ‘love’,
    ‘forgive’, ‘bless’ and pray ‘for’ (i.e. “in regards
    to) those who have made and proven themselves
    to be my ‘enemies’ has been a difficult journey.

    Among the key reasons for this difficulty – has
    been other ‘christians’ attempting to indoctrinate
    me with the new false teaching that seems
    to be spreading in western congregations
    in which they claim that, as a christian’,
    “IF you have TRULY “forgiven” others
    THEN you should have NO PROBLEM
    with asking God to bless them with ‘things’.

    When I pointed out that their teachings are
    both illogical and unbiblical — seeing that
    often the best way to ‘love’ a person is to
    simply ‘hand them over to God’ and just
    let them have to take whatever justice
    (whether it’s in the form of discipline,
    judgment or gentle, patient guidance)
    that God decides to render to them —
    I was told that I was “unforgiving”.

    People often forget that while the Bible
    forbids us to “rejoice over” our enemies
    downfall — it does NOT forbid us to
    “pray for” it to occur (if necessary).

    There are places all over the world (in both
    western and non-western nations) where
    ‘christians’ are suffering unimaginable
    horror — and for western churches to
    (in such a time as this) suddenly begin to
    spread this recent (I am assuming) and
    false teaching that we are to spend our
    time asking God to materialistically-bless
    those who destroy His spiritual-bride is
    both unbiblical and also utterly insane.

    The BEST way any ‘christian’ could ever
    “bless” or pray “for” or show “forgiveness”
    to or “love” someone who has proven
    themselves to have been their enemy —
    is to obey Christ’s Great Commission and
    to “share the good news of who Christ is”
    — thus providing that enemy with the
    opportunity to ‘taste of’ The Bread of
    Life and to ‘drink from’ the cup of
    The Living Water … with which that
    person will NEVER ‘hunger’ or
    ‘thirst’ (spiritually-speaking) again.

    The ‘battles’ that we, as ‘christians’ fight
    are of a ‘spiritual’ nature (and not truly
    physical or material) – and thus, it only
    makes sense that the ‘blessings’ that we
    provide to our enemies should also largely
    focus on that of being of a ‘spiritual’ nature.

    [This is stated with the full understanding that, as
    a part of the spiritual-battles for which we are to
    be girded – our physical and material needs
    (and those of our enemies) must also be met
    — but — while the physical, material, financial,
    social, etc. ARE ‘factors’ in the battles that we
    face – they ARE NOT to be the ‘focus’ of them.

    The same can be said regarding that of showing our
    ‘love’ for; ‘forgiveness’ of; ‘blessings’ toward and
    praying ‘for’ our enemies … in all of this, I truly
    feel that our focus is to be more on the ‘spiritual’
    for them than it would ever be for, the ‘material’.

    In fact, sometimes. God shows “tough love” toward
    our enemies (and even His own spiritual-children) by
    taking ‘material’ items away from them (and even us)
    in an effort to bring about repentance from wrong ways.

    For us, as ‘christians’ to misunderstand Christ’s desire
    for us to “bless” our enemies (by sharing with them the
    truth of who He is) and to replace the “blessing” of them
    being given an opportunity to ‘know’ Him with that of
    cheap, temporal, perishable “things” (as many churches
    falsely teach people to do today) displays an insult to
    Christ; an injury to the person; and an insincerity by us.

    The decision to and purposeful actions of showing
    ‘love’ toward; ‘forgiveness of’, ‘blessing’ upon; and
    and praying ‘for’ our enemies are all reflections of
    the actions of ‘the Pearl of great price’ (with the Pearl
    being Christ and the price being the Cross; and our
    ‘reflection’ being that of being “of the imitation t
    of Christ” .. i.e. being Christ-like or ‘christian’).

    Christ Himself told us to NOT cast our “pearls”
    (i.e. our actions of being a ‘reflection’ of Him
    and of His ‘image’) to “swine” – and I believe
    that, in this, — He was commanding that we NOT
    ‘waste any opportunity’ to ‘share the good news
    of who He is and what He has done for us all’
    with anyone (including our personal enemies).

    [Note:

    In addition to this – I also believe that He was
    instructing that, if people choose to reject the
    amazing ‘gifts’ being offered to them (love,
    forgiveness, prayer, blessing, prayer, etc.) —
    via remaining ‘unrepentant’ and ‘uncontrite’
    — we, as ‘christians’ are also allowed to then
    ‘wipe the dust off our feet’ and to ‘move on’
    and not ‘waste’ our ‘pearls’ in such a situation.

    Christ Himself (as well as the apostle Paul, etc.)
    literally walked away from both people and even
    entire towns that rejected the good-news of Him.

    Even after ‘moving on’, however, we are still free to
    pray ‘for’ (in regards to the person) and that God will
    ‘let whatever it takes’ to occur in their lives in order for
    them to repent; confess and make amends (if at all possible)
    — and thus possible ‘pluck them from the coals’ of damnation.

    Sorry if I sound ‘preachy’ or anything (as that was NOT
    my intent) – but – I really wanted to speak out on this topic
    and appreciate your allowing me to share this on your forum.

    Thank you very much and please have a wonderful day.

    — DSDJRTB

  • James Early

    DSDJRTB

    Sorry it took so long to post this. I’ve been swamped lately. You have certainly thought and prayed a lot about all this.

    There is always more for us to learn from what Jesus tells us to do. The more we live what we do know and understand, the better we will be at it.
    The more we love, the better we become at loving, etc.

    James

  • http://www.thequotesaboutlife.com/ Theo Jarquin

    Love these quotes as I have my self a website with quotes about life. Thought it would be wise to share my favorite quote: “It’s the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what’s right.” – Peter Parker