Thursday, January 22, 2009

Love Your Enemy to Death

Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

These verses has been swirling around my head for the last few days and I have come to a realization. What does this mean "love your enemy"? How can we love someone that we consider our enemy? Do we clinch our teeth, manufacture a smile, and wave hello to the "insert expletive here" coworker that got promoted to a job he/she didn't deserve? First we must define who or what is our enemy. Here are a few definitions.


  1. a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent.
  2. an armed foe; an opposing military force: The army attacked the enemy at dawn.
  3. a hostile nation or state.
  4. a citizen of such a state.
  5. enemies, persons, nations, etc., that are hostile to one another: Let's make up and stop being enemies.
  6. something harmful or prejudicial: His unbridled ambition is his worst enemy.
  7. the Enemy, the Devil; Satan.
To keep things simple lets focus on just the 1st definition. Hatred is a natural human emotion that sometimes does get the very best of us. At times some of our worst emotions arise against even those dear to us. Pain, suffering, and fear also contribute to how strangers perceive and interact with us. I could be attacked, verbally and physically, by a stranger I pass on the street just by wearing a t-shirt they find offensive. How can those (former friends, family, strangers) who consider us enemies both hate and love us at the same time? They probably can't but by changing your attitude and perception of your "enemies" you might be able to love them without any hatred. We must love them to the point where we no longer consider them our enemies and by loving them to death we are freed from the chains of hatred. We must let our perception of them, as our enemy, die. I believe Jesus was saying we should love to the point that we have no enemies.

The first step to claiming our former enemies as friends is to understand and get to know them. When we meet and make new friends we spend time getting to know them, likewise we must spend time with those that consider us enemies. If this means as a Christian you visit your local mosque or synagogue (and vice versa) just to at least meet and introduce yourself and your beliefs this is entirely up to you. Both of you might learn something new about the other that you never knew before. You can not truly love your enemy by sitting in your pew; get up, shake hands, meet new people and even if you do not see eye to eye you are one enemy less and one friend closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.

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