Must I Really Love My Enemies?

Biblical Authority Devotional: Faith, Hope, and Love, Part 10

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Chuck McKnight, AiG–U.S., explains that it is not enough to simply tolerate our enemies, we are commanded to love them.

I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. (Luke 6:27–28)

Today’s big question: must I really love my enemies?

Leviticus 19:18 states, “You shall love your neighbor.” Over time, it became a common expression to add to God’s command the phrase, “and hate your enemy” (Matthew 5:43). The Jews considered “neighbor” to mean their own friends and countrymen, but outsiders were held in contempt.

Jesus provided a very different definition. When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), He responded by telling the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” Keep in mind that many Jews despised the Samaritans and viewed them as half-breeds. However, the Lord’s parable reveals that God considers all men to be our neighbors, regardless of our antipathies.

This concept goes even further. Jesus specifically clarified that we are to love and pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:44). He instructed His followers to deliberately return good for evil.

To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. (Luke 6:29–30)

As followers of Christ, we should strive to be shining examples of His love in the world as we extend that love to all without discrimination. After all, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

By loving our enemies, we let our light shine before them so that they will see our good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:16). Everything we do should be for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31), and showing love even to our enemies is one more way to ultimately bring glory to Him. What glory does God receive when we love and do good to only those who love and do good to us? “Even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:33).

But we are given yet another reason. It is actually counted as a blessing to us when we endure persecution.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10–12)

Like the apostles did in Acts 5:41, we are supposed to actually rejoice in persecution. It is our privilege to suffer for Christ. Why would we hate those who allow us this reward?

Today’s big idea: we must love everyone, even our enemies.

What to pray: ask God to fill you with His own love for others.


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