How should you treat your enemies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Jesus has just told us to respond with kindness to those who insult us and try to hurt us, but now He ups the ante even further. Up until now, He has been telling us what the Law means, but the next saying He quotes is not from the Law. Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 5.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Nowhere does the Law command you to hate your enemy, but this was a common thought of the time. If you loved your neighbor, since an enemy wasn’t specified, surely you are to hate your enemy. Nope. You are to love them too. Actually, the Law itself upheld good treatment of the enemy, such as returning his stray animal to him.
This can be really hard at times for all of us. I don’t consider myself having many personal enemies, but if someone hurts Allie, they become my enemy. I was once at a Christian event and I looked up and suddenly from behind, the person in front of me looked like someone who had really hurt Allie in the past. I was filled with rage immediately. I could hardly concentrate on what the speaker was saying. I found out later it wasn’t him, but at the time, I sure was thinking about things I wanted to do.
My usual idea in this case is to do what I want and then ask for forgiveness later.
Just a couple of days ago we had someone knock on our door and with them was someone Allie had been hurt by. They wanted to take us downtown and offered to pay us. I only asked if it was okay with Allie.
It’s really amazing how we think. We look at what other people do so much which we cannot control, and we look at what we do so little which we can control. When I stand before God one day, He is not going to ask me about how other people treated me. He is going to ask me about how I treated other people.
God demonstrates this love. Everyone gets rain and everyone gets sunshine. Anyone can love someone who is good to them as well. Big whoop if you do that. It’s if you can love someone who is opposed to you. That’s a real accomplishment.
Something to note. This does not mean you necessarily put yourself in a compromising position. In a 12-step recovery, you are told to make amends to people you have hurt unless that would hurt you or them. If it is dangerous for you to be in front of a person who could be a threat to you even if you did hurt them, do not reach out to them. You can forgive someone for a wrong, but you don’t have to trust them again.
Those who want some examples of this kind of love are free to check my article on if your murderer will be in heaven, which is one of the most popular ones on this site. As someone said in the comments, right now, Stephen and Paul are together. Radical love is what is required to be a Christian.