Essential Steps to Loving Our Enemies

“I love my enemies!” my little granddaughter piped up during their family devotions. “What enemies do you have?” her parents asked, certain she had none, and hadn’t even the faintest idea what it meant!

“My nonni!” the 4-year old replied with satisfaction – convinced that enemies was the English word for nonni, the Italian word for grandparents. (Oh the difficulites of Third Culture Kids!)

It certainly would be odd for a 4-year old to already have enemies. And actually, it’s sad that anyone should have them, or that others want to behave as one. But the troubled family situations, broken friendships, war and conflict all around us, prove that many prefer discord to peace.

We must strive for peace.

As Christ followers we are called to always strive for and work toward peace.

How to love our enemies with Christ’s love…

But the problem is that not everyone lives with this intention, and we end up with unwanted enemies. So it’s important to know what God says we should do about them. Especially what to do if the other person doesn’t want peace. And Christ provided the key by giving us a NEW commandment.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also love one another.

John 13:34 WEB

It probably seemed strange to the disciples that he called it new. They had already heard this teaching, both from Christ and in the Old Testment.

So why new?

Because the Jewish leaders had changed the command. “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” is what they taught.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you”.

Matthew 5:43-44 WEB

So Christ was teaching them a new way. “Love one another as I have loved you.” And we think, “That’s just what I want to do, but I always seem to fail.” And that’s because we love in our own human way.

But Christ’s love was concrete.

And he wants us to reach out with this same kind of concrete love. As shown through the following simple story.

A lady brought a little ragged orphan girl to her house for a playmate for her three daughters. But the little thing would venture no further than the lobby, where she sat crying as if her heart would break.

The lady said to her daughters there was one secret of four letters which she thought would win the little one. The eldest girl tried her d-o-l-l, the second her new m-u-f-f, but still the little stranger kept on weeping. At length the youngest sister ran into the lobby, sat down beside her, began to weep with her, and then put her arms about her neck and kissed her, till at last she easily got her into the room.

And that was how they learned that the secret was L-O-V-E.

(Based on a story from The Biblical Illustrator; in the Public Domain. )

God loved us, even when we were enemies.

And he actively demonstrated it. He came down to our level and embraced us – dirt, rags, and all. He wept with us, and bestowed his kiss of grace and forgiveness. (Romans 5:8-10)

With his perfect love Christ love came down to our level and embraced us – dirt, rags, and all. He wept with us, bestowing his kiss of grace and forgiveness. And this is what he wants us to do for others.

And this is just the love our enemies need. Their hateful actions have made them dirty and ragged just like that little girl. Perhaps they’re not even sorry for what they’ve done and don’t deserve our forgiveness. But loving like Christ means forgiving them anyway.

4 steps toward really loving your enemies

1. Make things right.

Obviously the place to start is by trying to clear things up. If we’ve wronged them, we must apologize and try to make it right. It’s part of following Christ.

2. Forgive the wrong.

But when another has wronged us and they don’t own up to it? Forgive them anyway. They need our forgiveness (even if they don’t realize it). And we need to extend it (even when we don’t realize it). So forgive them as Christ commands.

3. Show them love.

Show them love and pray for them, even if you don’t feel like it. Greet them and wish them a good day. Offer them help or even a cup of coffee. Don’t treat them as they deserve – but as Christ would.

4. Pray for reconciliation and restoration.

This is the step we often overlook. We have forgiven them in our hearts (or at least are striving to.) But they haven’t received it – either outright rejecting it or allowing no occasion for extending it.

Forgiveness is a transaction.

Christ offers forgiveness to all, but only some receive it. Those who don’t continue in a broken relationship, separated from God – even though complete restoration is available. It is only by receiving forgiveness that they become sons and daughters.

And human forgiveness works the same way. We may extend it, but the other person needs to receive it. Otherwise it remains an incomplete transaction.

Forgiveness needs reconciliation.

Without reconciliation and restoration forgiveness remains an unfulfilled transaction. Enemies choose to remain enemies until they receive our forgiveness. Sadly creating a situation where both parties are forced to continue dealing with the pain of a broken relationship.

Forgiveness needs reconciliation. Without it, it remains an unfulfilled transaction, leaving the pain of broken relationship.

And that’s what makes loving our enemies so hard. We want and need reconciliation. We’re even willing to take our enemy in our arms, rags, filth and all – because we want the relationship restored. Yet we’re forced to live with the pain and anguish of separation.

Christ calls us to let him conquer all our hate and unforgiveness by doing all we can toward restoration. Then it’s up to the other person.

But whether or not they choose reconciliation, in Christ we continue with forgiveness in our heart. In Christ we keep showing l-o-v-e. And in him we hope and pray for the day when we can take that former enemy in our arms. And we long for that day of restored friendship.

Images: Rag doll | Colored heart | Scrabble heart | Love word.

Published by Signora Sheila

Wife, mom, nonna, missionary, and Bible student on a spiritual walk with Christ @mycammino. Because life is at heart a spiritual journey of going further up and further in, into the Father heart of God.

8 thoughts on “Essential Steps to Loving Our Enemies

  1. Beautifully written, my friend. Focusing our hearts on forgiveness, though difficult, takes our eyes off our own pain, if even for a moment. A wonderful reminder of what our Lord has asked of us–and gives us the strength to do!

    Like

    1. Amen, Dayle. Only through Christ’s strength can we really forgive. And you are so right. To do so, we must take our eyes off ourselves and our pain. I hadn’t thought of that aspect. Once again, dear friend, you have given me something to chew on. And you can be sure I’ll be looking for ways to apply that truth to the forgiveness issue. Thankyou, I needed that!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Karen. It’s so hard to put into action – but great blessing comes when we do! May the Lord help us to always live in his love, light, and truth – even in these kind of situations!

      Like

  2. “Let God conquer all our hate and unforgiveness!” AMEN, Sheila. I’m thinking back on a difficult situation with a difficult person. The hurt did not go away with one prayer; it took multiple prayers over time. I believe those prayers paved the way for God to work in my heart, and the healing finally came.

    Like

    1. I’m afraid we all have memories of those difficult moments, Nancy. And it does take time, sometimes a long time, for healing to come. One of the greatest things about heaven – other than being with the Lord – will be that no such issues or circumstances can occur ever again. There will be no strife, hate, or discord. May the Lord hasten that day!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is one of the toughest things to do, in a culture that sees loving one’s enemies as weakness, even failure. Thanks for reminding us, Sheila. We need to be reminded of this, often.

    Like

    1. How very true, Cynthia. I think few things in this life are harder than true forgiveness. So we do all need this reminder from time to time. And especially to remember that by embracing Christ’s seemingly weak ways we find strength and true victory! It’s often a slow, uphill battle, but through his strength not impossible!!

      Liked by 1 person

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: