Summary: Why should Christians love their enemies? What does love for an enemy mean? Do we have to like them too? Let’s examine what Jesus says in Luke 6:27-38.
Why should Christians love their enemies? What does love for an enemy mean? Do we have to like them too? Let’s examine what Jesus says in Luke 6:27-38.
How Love Enemies
Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” We may not LIKE them, but we must LOVE our enemies. How? Doing good, blessing and praying for them.
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone… Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17, 19-21)
We are not to take personal vengeance, but must leave that to God’s judgment. He may not think the person did wrong, but that WE were wrong, so it’s always best to leave it to His judgment. The opposite of vengeance is, giving food and drink to a needy enemy.
In the Hebrew Scriptures we read, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.” (Exodus 23:4) “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21).
How do we pray for those who mistreat us? On the cross, Jesus prayed for His murderers. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Do we pray for drivers on the road, illegal immigrants, scam callers, difficult family members and corrupt politicians?
Luke 6:29-30 “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.”
How literal is this? “When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, ‘Is that the way You answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?’” (John 18:22-23)
“Then Paul said to him, ‘God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?’” (Acts 23:3) Jesus emphasized suffering over vengeance, because a vengeful spirit only destroys us.
By saying, “Give to everyone who asks of you,” Jesus emphasizes giving over stinginess. Notice Jesus said, give to everyONE; He did not say, give everyTHING. Giving everyTHING will often only perpetuate the curse of dependency, and the most important giving may be encouragement to stand on one’s own feet.
Luke 6:31-32 “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” Another way of saying this golden rule is “you would like men to love you, therefore love them whether they love you or not.” [W. Robertson Nicoll. The Expositor's Greek Testament. D. D. Mead and Co. 1897.]
Luke 6:33 “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” Macedonian Bishop Theophylact asked, “If you only love them that love you, you are only like the sinners and heathen; but if you love those who do evil to you, you are like to God; which therefore will you choose, to be like sinners or like God?” [Joseph Benson. Benson's Commentary - The New Testament. New-York: T. Mason & G. Lane. 1839.]
Why Love Enemies
Luke 6:34-35 “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”
Ancient Israel was required to lend to nationals without interest. They could, however, ask for interest from foreigners. Here Jesus goes beyond lending with interest or usury, to lending without even expecting the principle to be returned. How? Because we lend mercifully, fully prepared that circumstances may prevent a return.
Luke 6:36-37 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”