Written by Mike Gordon
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’” Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-48. He was speaking to a large crowd of people from many walks of life. Within this crowd, you would find people from different regions with different beliefs, worldviews, and philosophies on how to live.
In this particular region, some people were hearing from leaders of the day that it was okay to hate your enemy. Whether it was the Samaritans, the Gentiles, or the Roman Empire, the understanding was if they wronged you, betrayed you, or disagreed with you, then you were justified in hating them.
Interestingly enough, doesn’t that reflect our culture today?
Of course most Christians know hate is wrong, which is why we don’t use that word very much. Instead, we “strongly dislike.”
Hate is simply the inability to love.
Perhaps there is someone in your life you are unable to love because of different beliefs, worldviews, philosophies, or because of how they have treated you.
No matter how you label it, if you are unable to love them, that’s hate.
Unfortunately, some of us have heard leaders in our culture justify why it’s okay to hate.
Who do you have the ability to love?
Someone who has a different political view than you? Someone who stands on the opposite end of the abortion conversation than you do? Someone who believes COVID-19 is just a hoax?
Maybe it’s someone close to you. An ex-husband or girlfriend who wronged you. The person who bullied you for years. A parent who left you.
I think every one of us could make a very strong case for why our feelings towards our enemies are justifiable, but Jesus has a completely different approach. He tells us to love them. But truthfully, I hate loving my enemies. Sorry, I mean I strongly dislike loving them.
1. Remind yourself they are human
We’ve all done or said something we regret, and I’m sure someone could justify hating us in those moments. The problem when we let the sun go down on our anger is we lose sight of another’s humanity. Instead, we create this monster in our minds, making them out to be much worse than they really are.
Once we get to that point, then loving that person becomes nearly impossible. Now, I’m not saying what they did was okay, but we have to remember that others have moments of immaturity or battle other difficulties behind the scenes. We might not know the full picture, but we know they are human. We shouldn’t hold people to an impossible standard of perfection.
2. Forgive them
When He died on the cross, Jesus knew none of us would ever live perfectly. Since He died so everyone could be forgiven, who I am to say someone in my life doesn’t deserve forgiveness? We are told to forgive as we have been forgiven.
But here’s the challenge I have with forgiveness. I feel if I forgive my enemy then I’m condoning what they did. However, I’m learning more and more that forgiving someone isn’t saying what they did was okay. In fact, it’s not even letting them off the hook.
Instead, I’m letting myself off the hook so I can experience the internal peace God wants for all of us, freeing me to walk in love towards the people I forgive.
3. Respond today
If you can get to the point where you want to put into action Jesus’s command of loving your enemy, do it sooner rather than later. It might help you more than you think. The feelings of hate, bitterness, and anger which consume your mind don’t have to control you anymore.
Forgiveness is in your hands, though. You can’t wait to love and forgive them until they come and apologize to you. That day may never come. You have no control over how someone else responds, only how you respond.
You might choose to move forward with them or without them, but you can’t move forward if you’re unable to love those people in your life. You have an opportunity to experience a newfound peace and display the grace of God in the lives of your enemies.