“Love Your Enemies” … How?

EnemysDonkeyCopyJesus told us to love our enemies and we just can’t figure it out.

The backstabber in the office, the bully at school, there is simply no way to feel anything good toward them. Then we look a little further away at the person who is a political opponent or who threatens our career advancement or a little closer to someone we consider a self-centered, unkind spouse and there seems no way in heaven — or on earth — to find a feeling of love for that person.

When You Don’t Feel Love, Do Love

Loving an enemy, as the Bible lays it out, is much more about what you do than what you feel. Look at these examples of Old Testament guidance:

“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him” (Exodus 23:4).

“If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.” (Exodus 23:5)

That is to say, if your enemy — someone who hates you — has lost something that is crucial to the success of their business and you find it, it is your responsibility before God to return it. If someone who hates you has, because of their own stupidity or greed, overburdened their business equipment and it has broken down, you don’t get to walk by and gloat in the break room. It’s your job, before God, to help. This is what it looks like to love an enemy.

Love an Enemy Like You Love a Brother

These commands almost precisely parallel commands given that explain how we are to care for our brothers and sisters in the family of God:

“If you see your brother’s ox or sheep straying … be sure to take it back to him”  (Deuteronomy 22:1).

“If you see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen on the road,do not ignore it. Help him get it to its feet” (Deuteronomy 22:4).

How can it be that we are supposed to love an enemy with exactly the actions we would do for a brother, someone toward whom we presumably have at least some kind of warm regard?

Resolve, Not Romance

The answer is so obvious it’s easy to overlook. The kind of love God commands isn’t the kind of “love” that creates fluttery feelings. It’s the kind of love that does what’s best for other people. Not that there’s anything wrong with breathless, chest-pounding romance. But it’s not what anyone feels when they’re facing down a street thug or the office queen bee or martyrdom. The love God commands is a love that resolves to follow God and do God’s purposes for the best of all the people involved.

Have you ever managed to love an enemy? What happened? 


About Carlene Hill Byron

The former editor of New England Church Life and The New England Christian, Carlene Hill Byron is enjoying being home in Maine after 20 years in North Carolina. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Find her at christianpurposeblog.wordpress.com, churchandmentalillness.wordpress.com and on Facebook at MyHouseHasHistory.
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3 Responses to “Love Your Enemies” … How?

  1. Heidi says:

    Oh I love this one, Carlene. I LOVE the passages that show God commands us to treat our enemies in the SAME WAY we treat brothers and sisters, in terms of showing compassion and grace. I just finished reading a book on marriage – of all the marriage books I’ve read in the past 22-plus years, I’ve only ever thought 1 was good – now, I think TWO are good, because I’ve added this one to my very short list. It’s called How To Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong (The title is the WORST thing about the book!) by Leslie Vernick. Sometimes, the people closest to us function as enemies for a period of time. Yet, it is mind-blowing to recognize that EVEN THAT is under God’s sovereign hand – and for the purpose of giving us opportunity to practice love and grace in very harsh territory, just as Jesus did throughout his lifetime. It’s been a humbling book for me to read. Thanks so much for this post!

  2. Cec says:

    This is great, Carlene. I love the way you’ve drawn the parallel, and shown how simple it actually is: you don’t have to *like* someone to love them the way God has in mind. You just do it, because of Him. The relationship is with God!

  3. Pingback: Happy to Love Enemies | viewoutsidethepew

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