Matthew 5:43-48 NASB
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Satan, Our Adversary
What or who is an enemy? He is an adversary who contends with or who opposes or resists us. He is one who fights strongly against us in order to defeat us and to bring us down. He is someone openly hostile towards us, driven by a personal hatred, bent on inflicting some type of harm to us. He is not someone who merely disagrees with us, but who is out to destroy us.
The Bible teaches that Satan is our adversary who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). But, we are to resist him, standing firm in our faith. But, in order to do that, we need to know how to recognize him for who he is, and we need to know his tricks and his schemes and his lies so we can resist him, and so we don’t end up following him and resisting the Spirit of God, instead, which is what many are doing.
So, we need to be in the scriptures, studying them in context, comparing scripture with scripture, praying for the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. And, we need to not be following after the teachings of mere mortals. For, not everyone has the mind of Christ, and not everyone teaching the scriptures is doing so under the authority of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. So, we need to test everything against the scriptures in context.
We have Human Enemies
But, Satan is not our only enemy, although he is the one behind all those who oppose Christ and his gospel. We do have human beings who will treat us as though they are our enemies. And, so they may persecute us, speak evil against us, try to trip us up with our words, or they may try to shame us into following them instead of following Christ, or they will try to destroy us.
But, we are not to get even with them or to trade ‘tit for tat.’ But, we are to love them. But, this love is God-like (agape) love, not human love. So, it prefers what God prefers, which is what is holy, pure, righteous, godly, moral, upright, honest and faithful. It is a love that surrenders to the sovereignty of God, and which submits to his purposes. It embraces God’s will and prefers to live through Christ in his holiness and righteousness. And, it follows him in obedience to his commands.
It is not based in how we feel at the moment or on how likeable someone else is, nor is it based in how they treat us. And, it is not just being “nice” to people so they will like us, either.
So, we will do what is in the best interest of our enemies, not what will get us liked by them in return. We will consider what they truly need, not necessarily what they want. And, we will do good to them as God defines “good,” i.e. what is physically, spiritually and morally beneficial to them, not what will coddle them in their sins. So, we will speak the truth in love to them because that is what they truly need.
So, loving our enemies doesn’t mean we never “make waves” or that we don’t offend them with the truth of the gospel. It doesn’t mean we remain silent when we need to speak out. It doesn’t mean we back down and refuse to speak the truth so that they don’t get upset with us or so that they don’t end up speaking evil against us. We don’t compromise with them, either, just to make peace, if the compromise means backing down on the essentials of our faith and practice. That would be hating, not loving.
Pray for Them
Not only are we to love those who strongly oppose us, with the love of Christ, but we are to pray for them. So, what do we pray? I believe we need to pray God’s best for them, that they turn their hearts and lives over to Jesus Christ, that they surrender their wills to the will of God, that they leave their lifestyles of sin behind them, and that they follow the Lord in obedience.
I believe we should pray that God will do in their lives whatever is necessary to lead them to faith in Jesus Christ so that they can be delivered out of their slavery to sin, and so that they can have peace with God and the assurance of eternal life with God. And, so that they can be in relationship with Almighty God and walk in fellowship with him. And, so that they can know his love, his grace, his promises, his provisions, and his strength, guidance, help and peace which surpasses all human understanding.
Christ-like in what We Do
For, we show ourselves to be the children of God (or not) by what we do, and by how we live, and by how we treat others. The scriptures say that they will know we are Christians by our love, by how we love each other and others with God-like (agape) love which prefers what God prefers, and which loves others as God loves us and gave himself up for us that we might be delivered out of our slavery to sin and that we might walk in his holiness.
And, this means treating others as truly God treats us. And, how does he treat us? He is compassionate towards us but he is not tolerant of sin. He is gracious in providing a way for us to be delivered out of our bondage to sin, but he doesn’t coddle us in our sin. He is forgiving, but only as we surrender our lives to him, repent of our sins, and choose to walk with him in obedience, although scripture teaches us we must forgive, I believe, whether or enemies ever repent of their sins against us or not, for we need that.
We should not show love to only those who love us, or who love us back. But, we are to demonstrate the love of God even to those who hate us and who do evil against us, even if they never love us back.
Regardless of how we are treated, our response should always be the same. We should allow the love and the grace of God to shine through us so that the whole world can see.
But, again, this is not human love based in feelings or in making others feel good about themselves. This is a love that lays down our reputations in order to see others go free from their slavery to sin. So, it will risk being hated in return in order to speak the Word of Truth which can save human lives from hell and which can lead them to eternal life with God. For, this is the ultimate in sacrificial love to give of ourselves to lead them to life eternal with God.
So, when we are hated for righteousness’ sake, and we are rejected, and persecuted, and mistreated, we need to commit our lives into our Lord’s hands, and we need to trust him that he knows what is best for us and that he is going to work all things for the good of us who love and who obey him.
Trust His Heart
Songwriters: Babbie Y. Mason / Eddie Carswell
All things work for our good
Though sometimes we don’t see
How they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what’s best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just don’t see Him,
Remember you’re never alone
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart