If we genuinely believe that someone is hurting our country, which means hurting our families and friends, hurting others, hurting us, how can we genuinely love them? We love the person we marry. We love our children. We love our close friends. But loving our enemies? How can we do that?
For followers of Jesus, loving your enemies is not an option. Jesus commands us to do this very thing, saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew)
Paul echoed these same sentiments, writing, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,” and, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” He even quoted the ancient wisdom of Proverbs which exhorted us to feed our hungry enemies and give drink to our thirsty enemies (Romans).
Really? God expects us to show love to our enemies, even in practical, tangible ways?
Absolutely. The Bible is quite clear on this, and Jesus, by dying for the sins of the world, set the highest example for us.
How, then, can we put this into action and follow this lofty ethical command?
First, let’s understand what Jesus is not saying.
He is not saying that we should stop opposing destructive ideologies. He is not calling for moral or cultural or political apathy. He is not requiring us to soften our convictions or lower our standards.
Quite the contrary.
Love does not mean passivity. Love does not mean compromise. To quote Paul again, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians)
But the Lord is calling us to be different than the world, not to repay insult with insult or attack with attack, not to fight nasty with nasty. He is calling us higher. In fact, this is what sets us apart: Our enemies might get downright dirty, but we don’t throw dirt in response. Our opponents might engage in slanderous mudslinging, but we don’t slander them in return.
And this brings us back to the question of “how.” How do we put this into practice?
First, we must remember that none of us are perfectly righteous and that, if God gave each of us what we deserve, we would all be in trouble. Compared to God’s perfect standards, every one of us deserves judgment. In that regard, we should walk with a limp, not a strut.
That was part of the reason Paul urged the Christians in Crete “to slander no one,” since, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another,” until Jesus forgave them and transformed their lives. (Titus)
We, then, who received so much mercy when we were ignorant, foolish, and full of hatred, should show mercy to those who, in our opinion, are ignorant, foolish, and full of hatred. Perhaps they too are just moments away from a life-changing conversion. Perhaps our godly example can help move them in the right direction.
Secondly, let’s recognize that, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” And so, “every time you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.”
In some cases, it is very hard to do this. What “good” is there to be found in someone who gets rich from trafficking children?
But most are not like this.
Most LGBTQ+ allies genuinely believe they are standing on the side of love and tolerance. Most pro-abortion advocates really think that they helping women and doing what is best for the child (as crazy as that may sound to us). Many are caring spouses and devoted parents and loyal friends and good neighbors.
Let us not lose sight of our shared humanity just because people vote differently than we do.
Third, we can cultivate love for our enemies by praying for them regularly. When we do, we begin to desire God’s best for their lives. We want them to have a change of heart, not simply so “our side” wins but for their own good as well. When it comes to the child trafficker, for example, loving him would mean that we would rather see him repent and turn himself in than die in a shootout with the police.
And if we have the opportunity to show our political opponents acts of kindness – from the heart, not just as an outward display – we should do so.
Fourth, we must understand that when we repay hatred with hatred, we become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. We lower ourselves and we defile ourselves.
We also lose credibility in the eyes of a watching world. “You’re no different than the ones you criticize! All of you are acting like little children!”
To quote Dr. King again, “If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil.”
Let’s be determined to be the strong person in the room. And strength requires restraint.
Proverbs states that, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” And, “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.”
Anyone can spout venom. Tearing people down is easy.
But speaking the truth with love – without compromise or sugar-coating or watering down – takes discipline and maturity. It will also win the day.
To quote King once more: “Here then is the Christian weapon against social evil. We are to go out with the spirit of forgiveness, heal the hurts, right the wrongs and change society with forgiveness.”
In the end, we will reproduce who we are.
What kind of movement do we want to birth? Let us live it out and model it ourselves.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries and is the author of 40 books. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.