As Christians, we are told to love our enemies. But what does it mean to love your enemies? How do you learn to love someone you hate?
This concept was first told to Jesus’ followers during the Sermon on the Mount, yet it was not a new idea. Jonah had been given a message of impending destruction to take to the people of Ninevah. One of the reasons, he didn’t want to go was because the people of Ninevah had been considered enemies of Israel.
And that was not the first time in Scripture that the idea of loving your enemy came up. In Exodus, we read these words,
If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.Exodus 23:4-5 NKJV
From as early as their exodus from Egypt, God has been teaching His people to behave in a manner that is different than those around them. It was common practice to hate your enemies, love was reserved for people you actually liked.
What Does It Mean to Love Your Enemies?
So what does it mean to love your enemies? Let’s go back to the Sermon on the Mount and extract the lessons from Christ’s teaching. To love your enemies is to:
1. Bless those who curse you. There will be people who want bad things to happen for and to you. It’s easy to curse those who wish evil for you, but that’s not what Christ wants. He wants you to speak good things over their lives. He wants you to bless those who curse you.
2. Do good to those who hate you. Choosing to love your enemies doesn’t automatically mean that everyone will love you. Quite the contrary, you may find that the more you try to live this creed of doing good to those who hate you, the more hatred you will attract.
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Still, God expects you to continue to be a light in the world. God wants you to live in such a manner that it will bring glory to His name and people will want to serve Him.
3. Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. One of the great failings of human nature is that people take advantage of people. You may have experienced or witnessed this in your own life, the people who are willing to help often get treated like doormats. They attract more and more work with little compensation or benefit to themselves.
Yet, God expects us to pray for the people who take advantage of us. He wants us to pray for those who persecute us. God doesn’t want a single soul to be lost (2 Peter 3:9). Do you have someone who persecutes you? Bring them before the Lord in prayer.
Why should you love your enemies?
I know you’re probably wondering why you should love people who hate you or treat you badly. Why should you be the one to take the high road? Why should you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?
My friend, I first want to let you know that I get you. It’s hard to take the softer approach when people treat you poorly. But we have several reasons to love our enemies and I’d like to share them with you.
1. We love our enemies because God tells us to. I know, this first point’s a doozy. But isn’t that where it should start? We love others because God tells us to.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.John 13:34 ESV
2. Love your enemies because God loves you. God loves us to the point that He sent His only Son to die for our sins. The Bible says “while we were enemies” God reconciled us to Himself (Romans 5:11).
3. We love our enemies because we love God. God is love and if we say we love Him, then we can’t have any hatred in our hearts. Everyone, including that person you dislike, was created by God. How can we say we love God when we hate someone He has made?
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.1 John 4:20 ESV
Tips to Love Your Enemies
Loving our enemies will take a lot of effort on our part because it’s not our natural response to show love to people we dislike.
As you begin the process of showing love to all people, here are three things you can do to start loving your enemies today.
- Remember they were created by God. A lot of times, hate is generated towards people or things who are different than we are. We dislike things we fear. We hate things we don’t understand. When we remember that the person we call our enemy was created and is loved by God, just as we are, it should generate some kinship with them.
- Put yourself in their shoes. People sometimes garner our dislike because of their actions. They may do things differently or speak in a different manner. Try to put yourself in the person’s position. Imagine why they may be acting the way they are and try to figure out how to relate to them from where they are.
- Treat them as you would want to be treated. In this situation, the Golden Rule comes in handy, treat your enemy as you would want to be treated. Oftentimes, the person we hate is treated with disdain or distrust. Apply the Golden Rule and remember that God does not treat us as our sins deserve either (Psalms 103:10-14).
In the past few months, I’ve read or listened to several books set during the American Civil War or World War II and it’s got me thinking about the heart of man. The latest book in this time period has been When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin.
While reading, I found myself asking why people believe it’s okay to treat others as subhuman. I’ve wondered how to forgive in such cases and how it’s possible to love people who consider you an enemy.
How can we forgive people who think it nothing to run roughshod over the rights of others? How can God forgive us when we treat His created beings with such disregard as we sometimes do? And if God can forgive us, can’t we learn to forgive others? Can we learn to forgive ourselves? Can we learn to love people like these?
My Review of When Twilight Breaks
Evelyn is a foreign correspondent stationed in Germany. She watches as the rights of the Jews are taken one by one. As a woman, and with her German heritage, she has a lot to lose.
When she meets Peter, she is horrified by his endorsement of what he considers the order of German society. Can these two find common ground?
When Twilight Breaks was a fascinating tale. At some points in the story, it seems as if Evelyn is the only person who sees the potential dangers in the German regime and her voice was being silenced. It was also interesting to watch Peter come to a realization that “freedom without limits was as dangerous as order without limits”.
Know God: when the story began, both of the main characters were Christians, but their faith was not strong. Evelyn believed she didn’t need God’s strength because she was doing fine on her own. She eventually learned that calling on God is not a weakness but a way to receive His strength.
Peter’s faith seems to have been more of a habit than a heartfelt belief. He went to church and did what he thought was right, but he didn’t really know what he believed or why. It wasn’t until he had witnessed up close what several Jews had experienced that he began to question what it meant to be a Christian.
Know yourself: Evelyn saw herself as a strong independent woman, she didn’t believe she was capable of softer emotions. But as she spent time with Peter, she realized that not only was it possible for her to learn to be interdependent, but she also wanted to.
Run your race: One of the biggest things for Evelyn was being allowed to run her own race. She had met many people who tried to get her to act like everyone else. She had to learn that not everyone would try to force her into a mold. What I liked was that she also found a way to help Peter run his race when it seemed as if things weren’t going to turn out as he had hoped.
The romance in When Twilight Breaks took a backseat to the unfolding drama in the German empire and both Evelyn and Peter’s challenges there. Yet, there was a subtle revelation of the characters’ feelings. Peter learned that if he loved Evelyn he had to let her go, whereas Evelyn realized that Peter wasn’t trying to force her to be like everyone else. He was willing to support her dreams and help her to accomplish her goals.
I experienced a lot of emotion as I read this book. There were times when it was difficult to read because the treatment of individuals expressed in the novel wasn’t a fictional account from someone’s imagination. Similar events actually happened. There were times it seemed as if Evelyn and Peter would never break free of the hatred that was trying to consume them. Thankfully, they did.
I liked that When Twilight Breaks ended on a positive note, but there were some parts at the end that felt like a deliberate tidying up of loose ends and didn’t have the same emotion or meaning as the rest of the book.
Still, I enjoyed When Twilight Breaks. It was a gripping story told with emotion and heart. I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publishers through the Revell Reads program. Purchase When Twilight Breaks on Amazon | Baker Publishing
About When Twilight Breaks
Munich, 1938. Evelyn Brand is an American foreign correspondent as determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated profession as she is to expose the growing tyranny in Nazi Germany. To do so, she must walk a thin line. If she offends the government, she could be expelled from the country–or worse. If she fails to truthfully report on major stories, she’ll never be able to give a voice to the oppressed–and wake up the folks back home.
In another part of the city, American graduate student Peter Lang is working on his PhD in German. Disillusioned with the chaos in the world due to the Great Depression, he is impressed with the prosperity and order of German society. But when the brutality of the regime hits close, he discovers a far better way to use his contacts within the Nazi party–to feed information to the shrewd reporter he can’t get off his mind.
This electric standalone novel from fan-favorite Sarah Sundin puts you right at the intersection of pulse-pounding suspense and heart-stopping romance.
About Sarah Sundin
Sarah Sundin is the bestselling author of several popular WWII series, including Sunrise at Normandy, Waves of Freedom, Wings of the Nightingale, and Wings of Glory.
Her novels have received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. The Sky Above Us received the Carol Award, her bestselling The Sea Before Us received the FHL Reader’s Choice Award, and both Through Waters Deep and When Tides Turn were named on Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.”
Sarah lives in Northern California. Visit www.sarahsundin.com for more information.
Benefits of Loving Your Enemies
As justified as you may feel to hate your enemies, hate and unforgiveness only hurt you. When you learn to love your enemies, you reap the benefits of letting go of hatred and unforgiveness.
If you had to spend time with God in prayer learning to overcome your hatred, you would have invested in your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Prayer changes things and the person most changed, is you.
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