Love: Toward Our Enemies- Part 1

November 9th 2023

Love: Toward Our Enemies- Part 1

A Challenging Command

Throughout my eighteen years as a pastor, one of the most difficult biblical commands for Christians to accept, let alone embrace and live out in their lives, has been Jesus’s call to love our enemies. To be sure, this is a challenging command. How can we possibly love those who are against us? If we consider it in the context of our culture’s view of love as a feeling, or an emotion (see “Love: The Center of the Christian Life”), it’s not just difficult, it’s impossible.

If love is just a feeling or an emotion, there’s no way we can muster up warm, loving feelings for our enemies. How can you possibly manufacture affections for someone who is aligned against you, or worse, is trying to hurt you and tear you down? If love is just a feeling, then loving your enemies is an exercise in futility. However, if love is an action, meaning something you do and can choose to do, then you have hope in being able to truly love your enemies.

A Counter-Cultural Command

In my opinion, loving your enemies is one of the most counter-cultural commands in the Bible. It runs completely contrary to the stream of our cultural ethos. Our culture tends to preach one of two extremes: either we should take revenge on our enemies and crush them, or simply ignore and avoid them altogether.

And yet, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands us to love our enemies:

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:27–36).

Is there anything about emotions or feelings in Jesus’s description of how to love your enemies? Not at all. Instead, we are called to love our enemies in action; love is a verb. Look at verses 27 and 28. Jesus says that you are to bless and pray for your enemies as they hate you, curse you, and abuse/mistreat you. So Jesus isn’t calling you to have warm, fuzzy feelings for your enemies, but rather, to intentionally choose to love them.

A Convicting Command

In one of the more convicting verses in the Bible, Jesus lays down the challenge to his followers, saying that if think they’ve done enough by loving those who love them, they need to keep in mind that even “sinners” (unbelievers) do that. With that in mind, consider Paul’s description of unbelievers in Ephesians 2:1–3:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

That’s a pretty gruesome picture of who we were before Christ rescued us, and of every person who is not yet a Christian. So, if even sinners can love those who love them, shouldn’t Christians be able to love far beyond that? Shouldn’t we be able to love even our enemies? After all, while we were still enemies of God (Rom 5:10), he loved us enough to crush his Son, Jesus, on the cross (Isa 53:5, 10) to rescue us from his wrath (Col 1:13–14), lavishing his grace on us (Eph 1:7–8) and adopting us (Eph 1:5).

A Cross-Centered Command

By the power of God’s grace in our lives, Jesus enables us to fulfill his command. In fact, 2 Peter 1:3 says that, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” When he saved us, he put his Spirit within us to empower us to live and love as he did (1 Cor 3:16). He has given us his living and active word (Heb 4:12). He has given us his body, the church (Eph 4:11–16). He has given us prayer and full access to his throne of grace (Heb 4:16). We have been given everything we need, through his grace, to love our enemies, just as Christ did.

Jesus not only commanded his followers to love their enemies, but he set the ultimate example by loving his enemies all the way to the cross. Romans 5:8–10 says,

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

God desires for us to love our enemies, and is so gracious, that he rewards us when we do. However, beyond reward, we image and reflect our great God and Savior who is “kind to the ungrateful and the evil” in this life (Rom 6:35–36). We are to be merciful as God is merciful. And when we love our enemies like he has loved us, we vibrantly display the gospel to those around us, all for the glory of God.

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Author: Curtis Field

Curtis has been a pastor for 18 years. He has served in a variety of roles over the years, including being an Area Pastor, Pastor of Care and Counseling, and Family Pastor (Marriage, Men’s, Women’s, Kids, and Awana). He currently serves as the Associate Pastor of Shepherding at Redeemer overseeing the pastors and directors who lead the Counseling and Care Ministry. He is married to his beautiful bride Angela and has four daughters he adores.