As Christians, our highest calling is to love. God calls us to love Him above all else and love our neighbors as ourselves. Many people think that when the Bible says “love your neighbor” it means we are supposed to love our family, friends, acquaintances, and maybe a few strangers along the way. However, the call to love stretches far beyond our inner circle. We are not exempt from loving anyone, not even our enemies.

How can God insist that we love our co-worker who has been spreading rumors about us, or our mother-in-law who we can never seem to be good enough for? How can we be expected to love those people who are so unloving to us? In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches us that we are to love even our enemies.

“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” Matthew 5:43-45.

It’s clear that Jesus calls us to be counter-cultural by loving our enemies, but why should we?

We are children of God.

We should love our enemies because God commands, and anything God commands us to do is for our benefit. More than that, we should love our enemies because it is one of the trademarks of being a son or daughter of God. Recall the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44-45,

“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.”

As children of God, loving our neighbors isn’t optional, God expects us to love our enemies if we call ourselves His children. We should strive to produce the fruit of showing love to our enemies. If we deliberately ignore God’s command to love our enemies, we are in dire need of a spiritual self-evaluation.

We sin against God.

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” Matthew 25:40

All humankind is created in the image of God. Therefore, we can’t separate our love for God from our love for humankind. By loving our enemies we show love to God. Likewise, when we despise our enemies we also despise God because He made everyone in His image, even our enemies. King David illustrates this fact beautifully in Psalm 51:4 after committing adultery with Bathsheba he cries out,

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgement.” Psalm 51:4

David got it. He understood that by sinning against Bathsheba, he also transgressed against his heavenly Father and it rocked him to the core. The sin of David is different than the sin of failing to love our enemies but the same concept applies. When we sin against our neighbor, enemy or not, we sin against God.

No excuses.

We have no excuse not to love our enemy. Often, when we read passages of scripture that command us to love our enemies we come up with a ton of excuses to absolve us of our responsibility. We think that if we don’t feel loved by someone then we don’t have to show love to them. This lie couldn’t be farther from the truth.

We have no excuse not to love everyone, including those who grind our gears, or even those who persecute us. We have no excuse because any level of love that God calls us to display to another human being, has already been extended to us by God more deeply than we can hope to understand.

God loved us first before we even knew who he was. He didn’t wait for us to start loving him, he took the initiative. Paul, in Romans 5:10 explains the depth of God’s love for us before we even knew him,

“While we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son.” Romans 5:10

While we were still enemies of God, out of His love for us, He sent His Son to die on the cross and reconcile us to Himself. Therefore, if we are to be like Christ as the Bible commands us, we can’t twiddle our thumbs, waiting for our enemies to love us, we have to love them first, because that’s exactly what God did for us. God has extended this undeserved love to us and expects us to do the same to our enemies.

A wonderful witness.

Taking vengeance on those who wrong us is glorified in our culture. We are taught to hate those who hate us. As Christians, loving our enemies, serves as one of the most powerful witnessing tools. God calls us to be salt and light, to stand out in the crowd. What better way to do so then to do something so utterly unheard-of and counter-cultural like loving our enemies? Displaying this Christ-like love in today’s hate-filled world will force people to take notice and wonder who or what could compel us to love our enemies.

It’s not an easy road.

Simply knowing why we should love your enemies doesn’t means it’s easy to accomplish. It can seem impossible to overcome your feelings of animosity that harden your heart. However, it is possible with God. Admit to God that you struggle to love your enemies, he already knows anyway. Take the first step and admit your weakness and ask God to help you understand how to love your enemies and ask him to fulfill the call in your heart. Next time you’re faced with the choice to love your enemy, ask yourself what you would say or do if that person was your best friend in the whole world and do it.

Even though every fiber of your being tells you to hate your enemy, if you respond to them like you would respond to someone you love, amazing transformation can take place.

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” Abraham Lincoln.

5 Responses to "Why should we love our enemies?"

  • Gregg Thomas says:

    This is written well. God, through the Holy Spirit, taught me while I read this article…He gave me understanding, working to establish me in His Word. God used you here in my life.

  • Kathryn Archer says:

    I have walked with and followed my wonderful Saviour&Lord for 37 years, I am now an old lady, still learning to be like my precious Saviour. Today I was offered the scripture “but i say LOVE your enemies, pray for those who persecute (ill-treat) you. Over 37 years I have known heartache &rejection from both “friends” & those who hate God in their hearts; I’ve read these words if Jesus hundreds of times and have forgivven & loved those who have hurt me; but today, because I am hurting because of the ongoing hurt my adopted African Christian son causes me, I asked God for the 1st time “why do I have to love my enemy Lord?” (My son having hurt me more than even my enemies). So I Googled the question and found your article very helpful – God my Father reminded me today through your commentary that I am “a child of GOD (no longer a child of this world) & having mercifully saved me and forgivven ALL my sins, He has also called me to be LIKE HIS SON JESUS – Who LOVED His friends AND enemies alike and died for ALL the world, not just the “good” people because we have ALL sinned against God. And i am also reminded through your artucle that as I reflect the image of JESUS by loving (agape love) those who ill-treat me I can attract people to God through that Christian love that God Himself put within me when I accepted Christ. And I do sooo want to bring people to my beautiful Saviour! So I must persevere by God’s “sufficient grace” in loving those who hurt and ill-treat me, thereby fulfilling my Saviour’s command & calling on my life to follow His loving sacrificial ways towards others, to show the world “a more excellent way” as the Apostle put it. So Thank you so much for helping me to help the “unlovely” today who have hurt me… May our faithful God bless you & keep you and bless all who read this article, for the glory of His wonderful name, amen. – with Christian love from Kathryn in England, UK

    1. Teresa says:

      Thank you for sharing. I too have walked with God for many years and have been put through a tremendous stripping and trying of my faith. My husband left me after 45 years of marriage, for reasons known only to him, and my family has betrayed, rejected, and shunned me. I feel quite alone in the world. I am being taught to look only to my Lord and Savior to meet every need. My husband recently died and left me with nothing, not even a home or automobile. My life has been shaken and every belief I had about my husband and children has been proven untrue. I hurt and I want to hurt them and it will be by God’s grace I can bring that under His control. I have learned, however, that loving others is not the same as letting them cross our personal boundaries and treat us with disrespect. Not holding others accountable for their actions is NOT the loving thing to do. There is tough love. There is love that ultimately wants their better good by perhaps making them pay a temporary price. That is the example God has set in the way he deals with us, His children.

  • Nancy says:

    This year God has taught me, through grievous pain and hurt by a friend, how to love as Jesus loves. There is no greater blessing than to be free of hatred and animosity towards someone who has hurt us to the core—who has broken our hearts. His grace enabled me, and His grace will enable you. God Bless

  • Sandra says:

    Even if you love your enemies An your enemies are Family members I kno you still supposed to love them but is it a sin to not want them around you because they keep up trouble An they are evil and wicked An believe in withcraft you can love them but do you supposed to be around them if they are evil and hurt people or depart yourself from them but love them from a distance speak and keep it moving ? Or pretend you love them for the wrong they do towards you An people

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