Four Ways to Love Your Enemies

By Dave Steel

When was the last time someone insulted you, harassed you, gossiped about you, swindled you, betrayed you, hurt you?

You might be the most easy-going person there is, but chances are there’s at least one person who mistreated you along the way, who still causes you an allergic reaction whenever you see them or hear their name. As far as it depends on you, you’ve tried to live at peace with that person (Rom. 12:18), but he or she seems bent on being enemies. What can you do?

If you’ve read the Gospels, you know that Jesus had enemies—and that he endured horrible abuse by them. So how does he say we should deal with our enemies? He says love them (Matt. 5:44). What could be more counter-intuitive and counter-cultural than that!

But let’s say you’re a Christ follower, called to lead a transformed life. How do you go about obeying Jesus on this one? Here are four ways to love our enemies, according to Jesus.

1. Pray for them.

“Love your enemies,” Jesus said, “and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children 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” (Matt. 5:44-45). In other words, we take after God when we pray for people who don’t deserve it.

2. Forgive them.

While nailed to a cross, Jesus prayed for the perpetrators, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). I don’t know about you, but I can’t get over this. Jesus forgave those responsible for his crucifixion—while they were killing him! I may not have swung the hammer, but I too am responsible for his crucifixion. He died for my sins. In light of his grace, how could I not forgive my enemies?

3. Bless them.

Jesus taught us to “Do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). Similarly, the apostle Paul writes, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12:14). C. S. Lewis was right: “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”[1]

4. Serve them.

Jesus tells us to “lend to [our enemies] without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35). Likewise, Paul quotes the Old Testament proverb that says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Rom. 12:20). We’re called to serve our enemies.

Loving our enemies begins with praying for them and forgiving them, something we can do right now in Christ’s strength. And if we should happen to bump into them in the grocery store, we might even bless them and serve them. Wouldn’t that be just like Jesus.

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis, Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, ed. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989), 400.