How to Love Your Enemies

by Jacob Hudgins

two men arguing

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”(Luke 6:27-28).

Jesus wants us to love our enemies. That sounds impossible! How do we do it?

Learn how to treat friends. Jesus gives a set of behaviors he expects us to do for our enemies: love, do good, bless, and pray for them (Luke 6:27-28). “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”(Luke 6:30-31). It strikes me that I rarely do most of these things for my friends—much less my enemies! This is how Jesus expects ordinary relationships to go. We should be quick, happy givers and treat our friends like we’d like to be treated. We should pray for them and bless them. We should love and do good to them rather than simply seeing what we can get out of our friendship. If we cannot treat our friends well, then responding well to enemies will be a herculean task.

Expand the group of the loved. Once we have been trained in how to treat friends, Jesus teaches us to start to treat others with that same level of goodness. He does this by challenging our motives in our relationships: “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”(Luke 6:32-33). What determines who we love? Do we have to be bribed to love someone? Do people have to deserve our kindness? Jesus teaches us to simply begin to treat even more people with the basic kindness of friendship—even when they treat us with hostility. I can love people who are hard to love. I can do good to others who do evil. I can bless others who curse me. I can demonstrate the same behaviors to my enemies that I show with my friends.

Focus on God’s nature. The motivation stems from God’s example. “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 6:35-36). God puts up with remarkable ingratitude and rebellion from man, yet he continues to be kind. He calls us to be like him. That is deeply personal because it means I will be face-to-face with people who are unworthy of my attention and kindness, yet whom God wants me to treat well. Is my goodness determined by others—or will I be kind in all circumstances, like God?

This goes deeper. If I only love those who love me—if Jesus’ disciples are only as loving as the world around them—then how can God use us to change the world? How will this point people to him?

Loving our enemies is not easy, but it is possible. May God bless us to reflect his glory in our relationships.

Last modification: Thu 21 Mar 2019