The Nature of Loving Our Enemies
When you hear the command, “...Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” (Mat. 5:44), it sounds like it would be a little bit of a problem or a war of self-control that God has invited us into. But that’s really not the case exactly.
If you are like Jesus, you will have enemies. There will be those that hate us, falsely accuse us, persecute us, twist and manipulate, or lie about any of us and so on. Jesus said that will happen. If that’s not happening to you, then you’re not much like Jesus. Jesus said no man is greater than his master. They did those things to Him, and if you’re like Him they will do those things to you. If you’re NOT like Him, then you don’t have to worry about any of that because all men will speak well of you and it won’t be a problem. You’ll be “spiritual,” “loving,” “kind,” “wonderful,” and no one will ever feel as if you are a threat to them or intimidating to them. If you don’t walk in truth and you aren’t like Jesus, then you won’t have any enemies. So, everyone who is like Jesus will have enemies. Otherwise, we’re a liar and the truth is not in us. Jesus promised us that we would have enemies if we’re like Him, because we’re not better or more loving or spiritual than He is.
Assuming that there are those that would call themselves our enemies, how then do we love them? One foundational issue that has to be established in our hearts is that God found us as His enemies. Now that doesn’t sound like something most of us would want to think about ourselves in our pre-Christ era. We didn’t assume that we were enemies of God. We didn’t think or say, “I hate God. I think I’ll attack Him.” But the Scriptures are clear that if we love the world, we are enemies of God. But, if there’s pride in our hearts and lives and we’re filled with self-love, then we’re enemies of God. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Prov. 3:34; Jas. 4:6). There’s a war going on. In other words, we are His enemies.
Now, what did He do to us as His enemies? He didn’t assume that we would continue in that path of hating the truth and crucifying His Son without first opening His heart and being willing to be betrayed by a kiss. He exposed Himself to us, not to compromise the things that are true, but under the assumption that perhaps we’d change if we could see His love. So then, God didn’t lower His standard. He didn’t say it’s okay to be self-centered, hateful, lazy, proud, worldly, vain and egotistical, loving the things of the world, being filled with idolatry and greed, with slanderous tongues and temper. He didn’t say, “That’s okay, and you could be My friends anyway.” Those things do make us at enmity with God.
What He did was, He gave us an opportunity out of His kindness to turn from those things. We were His enemies and He opened His arms, not to accept our sin, but in willingness to forgive us if we repented. If we would turn from those things, He would overlook and remember our sins no more.
Basically, this idea of loving our enemies is remembering that we were God’s enemies. He didn’t lower the standard for us, but He was willing to give us opportunity after opportunity to make it right—without penalty, without remembering our iniquities. He was willing to give us opportunity after opportunity to make it right.
The standard remained the same, but forgiveness was full and free for those that would turn to Him, empty themselves, ask for His forgiveness and turn away from the things that made us His enemies.
Loving our enemies is to continually be open to remembering their iniquities no more if there’s a turning from them; a willingness to not hold their sins against them.