How Are We To Treat Our Enemies?

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies,    
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse    
you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28)    

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping    
for nothing in return; and your reward shall be great,    
and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is    
kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore    
merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and    
ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not    
be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give,    
and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed    
down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men    
give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye    
mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:35-38)   

As Christians, how are we supposed to treat those who have wronged us, or hurt us? Having received God's own grace and mercy and forgiveness, we are required to extend these things to others, as well. Of course, it's easy to extend these things to others who treat us well, who loves us and extend these things to us in turn. But it's a lot harder - in fact, without God's grace, it is impossible - to extend these things to those who have wronged us. This is especially true if it is a long-term or ongoing situation. We can sometimes overlook a single offense, but when that person continues to hurt us in some way, it becomes more and more difficult to forgive and extend grace and mercy.

This is something we all struggle with. I am convinced God places difficult people in our lives to give us ample opportunity to practice what Jesus taught about loving our enemies and doing good to those who despitefully use us! Keep in mind, however, that we aren't merely battling a person; Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our battle is not against mere flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness in this world, and spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms. In other words, we are battling satan and his minions, not merely the individuals who are making us miserable.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against
the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph. 6:12)

There are specifically five things Jesus instructs us to do for our enemies:

  1. Love them. The word used here is "agape", which is the kind of love God has for us. It means unconditional love; it does not have to be earned, deserved or merited in any way. In fact, it has no no relationship to the person's actions whatsoever. It is not an emotional feeling of warmth or tenderness toward that person. Agape love is not an emotion but rather a choice. We choose to love, because God loves us. We don't love them based on what they do or don't do. We love. Unconditionally. Period.

    Love is an action word, however. It requires DOING something. So after Jesus tells us to love our enemies, He goes on to tell us specifically HOW we are to love them, how to translate our love into action.

  2. Do good to them. We are not to try to "get even" with them or get them back, or give them what we think they deserve. That's God's job, not ours. We are not to secretly wish they'd get their comeuppance; we aren't to go around talking badly about them, disrepecting them or putting them down to others, or even in our own minds. No, Jesus said we are to do good to them. Treat them kindly and with respect. Leave the judgment of their actions in God's hands - He is the only one qualified to judge, and the only one who knows all the reasons why they act like they do. This is the very least we can do to love them. But then Jesus tells us to go even farther.

  3. Bless them. Blessing someone takes us one step farther than just doing good to them. Blessing them means actively seeking their good, and actively trying to help them and meet their needs. It means trying to help them obtain the best possible outcome in every situation. Blessing is an action word, just as love is: it requires us to DO something.

    Blessing someone also requires that we petition God in their behalf. That is the next instruction Jesus gives us as He teaches us how to deal with our enemies.

  4. Pray for them. Actively entreat God in their behalf. Call upon God to bless them. Interceed for their needs and their concerns. Do these things with no selfish motivation, not seeking to acheive your own goals. Pray earnestly and whole-heartedly for God's best for them.

    In doing this, we'll find that praying for them changes US, even if their attitudes and actions do not change. It changes how we feel about them, and how we relate to them. And it makes it easier to do the final thing Jesus instructed us to do.

  5. Give to them. Without expecting anything in return, give to them. They do not have to reciprocate - remember, this is YOUR choice, regardless of what they do or how they respond. It is the choice you make, and does not require their participation. So give freely to them, all these things and more, without expecting anything at all in return. If the situation changes, if they change in their feelings or actions toward you, that's a wonderful side benefit, but it really doesn't matter, because changing them is not your goal in the first place.

It's true that we aren't doing any of these things to change our enemies, but that is often a side effect. When we change our attitude, and start treating them differently, it often changes how their treat us. That certainly can make things better for us here and now, but Jesus explains that our real rewards will be in heaven, and we will truly be Sons (or daughters) of the Most High. We will be making life better for ourselves in the here and now - because carrying on battles and emnity are very wearing on us, but even better than that, we will be greatly rewarded in heaven! We truly demonstrate that we are God's children when we love as He loves: when we show kindness to those who are wicked and ungrateful, and extend mercy to those who don't deserve it.

Jesus finishes up this message telling us:

Don't judge, and you will not be judged. Don't condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive much more than you give;
your blessing will be running over, and poured out into your lap." (Luke 6:37-38a)

So we see that in the end, choosing to treat our enemies the way Jesus tells us to really benefits us far more than it does them! No matter how they do or do not respond to our choice to love them, do good to them, bless them, pray for them, and give to them, we still receive the blessings Jesus promised. It has nothing to do with them or their response, it is our reward for obedience to God's word!

In light of all this, I am making a choice to love those difficult people in my life. I choose to do good to them, to bless them, to pray for them. I chooose to give to them freely, not expecting anything in return. I choose to forgive, and to extend mercy and grace to them, regardless of how they treat me. What will you choose?

How Are We To Treat Our Enemies? Part 1
How Are We To Treat Our Enemies? Part 2: Watch Your Mouth!
How Are We To Treat Our Enemies? Part 3: Turn The Other Cheek
Loving Our Enemies





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