"Love Your Enemies" Do We?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48 NIV
'Love' and 'enemies' seem to be mutually exclusive words don't they? Loving our enemies isn't something that comes natural or even sounds logical. Proverbs 24:17 says we should not gloat when our enemy fails. Proverbs 25:21 tells us to feed our enemy when they are hungry. Then we get to Matthew, where Jesus is talking, and Christ tells us to "love" our enemies. How can we get to where we do that, and other than the fact that Jesus says so, why should we even try?
First of all, let us understand that hate is what comes natural, so we must further understand we are called to do something we really don't have the power to do alone. We need God's help, His supernatural help. Aside from the help of God, likely our love would be either superficial at best, if not altogether counterfeit. But where God commands, God provides.
As for why we should love our enemies, as we stated, one reason is because God tells us to. Another reason is because God loved us when we were enemies of His. "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior." (Col 1:21). "For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Rom 5:10). God set the example for us of loving our enemies, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us... (Rom 5:8) God gave of Himself, the ultimate gift of Christ, when we stood as His enemies.
God's love brought us salvation through Christ. His love made the difference in our lives. While His love is perfect, our's can't be, but He wants our best effort though, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:10-11) John is talking to Christians about Christians here, but if we are told to love our brothers and sisters because God loved us, would that attitude not also guide us in loving our enemies? Is that not what Christ is saying in the above passage in Matthew, where he asks us, if we only love our own, what do we benefit?
In conclusion, a passage of scripture that helps us understand just how to express our love, "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. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:27-36)