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What does it really mean to Love Your Enemies?

Updated on February 20, 2016
Photo from Watchman Gospel Signs
Photo from Watchman Gospel Signs

Even though I have been a Christian for almost thirty years, I often struggle with loving my enemies. I often find that neglecting to follow this Christian principle causes me great guilt, but despite feeling guilty, there are certain people that simply bring out the worst in me. There are certain people that if I had the ability to make them disappear, I would do so in a heartbeat. There are others that when they call I just want to disconnect the phone. I am also sure, I am not the only one that has felt this way. Yet, despite our human tendencies, we are commanded in the Bible to love our enemies.

We must remember that we all need to be merciful and we all need the mercy of others. The same way some people rub me the wrong way, I am sure I must come across like sandpaper to others that have touched my life. I have found in my own experience that when others have treated me with disdain it often leaves me feeling hurt, therefore it is very important that I remember to act in a way as to not hurt others, in order to do this I must learn to love my enemies.

Loving ones' enemies seems to be one of the most enigmatic commandments and yet, one of the hardest Biblical principals to follow. Jesus spoke of loving your enemies in the Sermon on the Mount. In Mathew 43-48 the commandment is stated as follows: 43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[b] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons 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. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

When one reads this commandment coming from Jesus, we can’t help but wonder exactly what do these words imply. At first it seems like Jesus is asking for something that goes against the grain of human nature and even what is deemed to be logical for most. Yet, these words make us stop and ask ourselves, what was Jesus saying? What did He mean?

First of all, we must ask the question: who is our enemy? We tend to think of an enemy as someone who wants to cause us bodily harm or a nation that is at war with us. We rarely put people we don’t get along with in the enemy category. By this, I am referring to those who we don’t really agree with or appeal to us personally. I would describe these people as the ones who make us cringe when we see their number on our caller ID, the ones we avoid saying hello to when we pass by them, those family members we rarely talk to, except to ask for a favor, the people we sit as far from as possible at social functions, or perhaps that person, who is least likely to get invited anywhere that we are going to; get the picture.

The truth is there will be people, who rub us the wrong way, people whose personality will never really be in harmony with ours. It’s not that there is anything really wrong with these people, but their way of looking at life is in contradiction with our own, because in a world with a vast variety of people, conflict of ideas is inevitable. Yet, we are commanded by Jesus to love these people.

The Bible teaches conformity in almost all aspects of life, after all, no one really gets everything they want, most things we have are the product of compromise. Let us look at the word conformity, what does it mean? According to the dictionary conformity means the following:

  1. action in accord with prevailing social standards, attitudes, practices, etc
  2. correspondence in form, nature, or character; agreement, congruity, or accordance.
  3. compliance or acquiescence; obedience.

If you carefully examine the meaning of the word conformity, you will realize that conformity has nothing to do with liking, or enjoying a situation, place or person, and has everything to do with acceptance, a mature acceptance of life on its own terms. Therefore, in order to be able to conform, one must also realize that conformity has nothing to do with personal preferences; yet it has everything to do with maturity and tolerance. People, who know how to truly conform do not always like the terms they are offered, but do so for the good of others. By this, I am not referring to some blind allegiance to some mindless ideology or simply following the crowd because of the need for acceptance. What it does imply is the ability to give of one’s self, when one would be inclined to complain or simply act rebellious because things are simply not to ones’ liking.

Conformity also includes the area of human relationships, this means knowing how to treat everyone with kindness and respects. It is easy to get along with someone when we really like that person and they share many of our own ideas. In life, there will be people you will be inclined to like and there will be those you will simply find hard to understand, therefore we will not be the friends with everyone. It is a simple fact of life that we will naturally be closer to some people and not very approving of others.

Biblical love means we must learn to accept others as who they are, not how we would like them to be. This means submitting to one another, not insisting on ones’ rights or point of view. Conformity in relationships also means being patient, kind, and unselfish with everyone, not just those who bring out the best in us. I personally find this principle very hard to follow, when I really don’t like someone they often bring out the worst in me, yet I am to do the very opposite of what would be my natural inclination, in order to truly practice Biblical love.

Therefore, conformity in relationships means not going along with ones’ natural and selfish tendencies. I don’t mean to be critical, but if one is honest with oneself, one has to admit this is true of everyone, even the best of people. Loving people, who you don’t really like does not come naturally.

The question is how does one do this task that goes against the very grain of ones’ humanity? First of all, it is essential that we accept others as face value, in other words, as they are, flaws and all. Of course, if the person in question is violent or abusive that would call for protective action and separating from such a person would be best, although trying to get that person the help they need in the process would also be considered loving your enemies. With that exception, there are many people we don’t like that don’t really mean to cause us bodily harm, but may cause friction in other ways.

Friction can come in many different forms, an example of this would be someone who got your promotion at work, loving them would mean having to support them at their job; even if that was the job you wanted. Another example would be someone with an annoying habit; instead of ridiculing them we could try correcting them with gentleness and tact. Then there are those family members, who make you want to spend as little time with them as possible, yet you must try to make time for them because they are lonely. These are all ways in which one can overcome friction and love their enemies in the process.

In this great commandment we see that God, Himself is impartial and gives good things to everyone. The commandment also states that we are no better than the average, uncaring individual if we love only those people that appeal to us personally, there is really no merit in loving those who serve our own purposes, even the most selfish of people are capable of loving at that level.

Perfect love demands a deeper level of giving in human relationships. Sacrificing ones’ will in all areas of human interchange, whether that be friendship, family, or marriage, there will be times when people in each of these realms may one day be your enemy, yet you are called to love them. This also include your attitude, you must not love them grudgingly. It is important to always remember the phrase “service with a smile.”

We may never agree with them or have warm affections for these people, but we must make an effort to look out for their well being, and give of ourselves, even if this means going against our own feelings and tendencies; that in a nutshell is loving ones enemies, and thus obtaining the ability to love as God would command us to.

This ability does not come naturally; it requires that we pray for the strength to see this person, as God sees them. It requires an active choice to practice this kind of love. It is a heart attitude, not just some act or superficial response. This is choice that requires knowing God’s word and wanting to conform to what it says, not what we would like it to say. Loving ones’ enemy is always a choice; it is my hope that we can all choose to love this way, as God empowers each of us to do so through prayer.


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    • GreatSword23 profile image


      14 months ago from Belgium

      to convert them into the right path of justice!

    • June Liandra profile image

      June Liandra 

      14 months ago from State of Wyoming

      i think loving our enemies means knowing what they know about us, if we're doing what they don't like, they point that out by hating us, but we won't know specifically until we could talk with them in a normal conversation

    • CarolineVABC profile image


      5 years ago from Castaic

      This is such a thought provoking hub! Thank you for thoroughly explaining "who is our enemies." I completely agree with you that sometimes enemies can be within our inner circles, and family, I'm afraid to say, is not an exemption. Just because you belong in the same family does not mean that we will all get along. Also, there will be many people that we come in contact with that we will have conflicts with all the time. I have learned not to voice my opinions too much when I know that it will just create a tension between the other person and myself. There will always be people who will contradict no matter what you say. As Christians, I believe loving our enemies is probably one of the toughest commandments of God that we have to face all of our lives. It is in our nature to love only the ones who are "like us or complement our personalities," but not the ones who contradict us all the time. Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom! Keep writing. God bless!

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you Dian for your kind words, I am so glad you found my hub encouraging. You are very right it does take two people to hate or love, it takes cooperation if we are to ever love our enemies. I am also living proof of God's forgiveness.

    • Dian'swords4u profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina

      This is a very good hub. I thank you for making this so evident to people today. I think if more of us could get past the anger and harsh feelings and just take a step back and realize that it takes 2 to hate and 2 to love, then we could see that what God has said makes perfect sense. It is less painful to love and it takes a lot less energy to love. If we follow God's word and forgive then life would be greater. He tells us that in order for us to be forgivns, we must forgive. I am living proof of this. Thanks again for this good hub.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you Unah Rape for all your kind words of encouragement. Prayer makes the best articles, and God is my muse. I am glad the article touched you and I wish I didn't fail so much in this area, but if we could all love Biblically what a different and wonderful world it would be.

    • profile image

      Unah Rape 

      8 years ago

      I Wish every one could read your article.The church today need to learn how to love which makes us different from the world.May the good Lord Jesus countinue to use you to touch many hearts all over the world.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you HubCrafter, your comments made my day. Thank you for reminding me of the source of all love and that is our Lord and Savior Jesus. I wish I could love Biblically, but all I can say is I'm still a work in progress and much in need of prayer. God bless and thanks for the encouragement you give me brother.

    • HubCrafter profile image


      8 years ago from Arizona

      Hi Internetwriter62:

      It's a wonderful topic and I applaud your heart's desire to follow after this special love...agape.

      Ahostagesituation makes a very good point,"I think that part of the reason behind that command to love your enemies, is for self-refinement. Of course you can love those to whom it comes easily, but it takes a great deal of character development, humility, and reliance on God to love those who are hostile towards you."

      Our character as christians comes out of comparing ourselves to Jesus Christ...recognizing how short we come from being as He is...which motivates us to cast ourselves, our foolish selves onto the mercy of God's lovingkindness asking Him to mold us into the image He finds most pleasing...Jesus Christ.

      Dying to my own selfishness, killing that which is un-loving and self-pleasing ---the parts of my life which are sinful.

      Do I talk about this as if I have something to teach? Lol. No....but let me tell you about Jesus.

      There is this thing I noticed once. About the apostles...they don't talk about themselves. The bible really has very little to say about them.

      The focus is on the Father and on Jesus...where it belongs.

      I enjoyed your hub. It made my day. Thanks.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you samson1, may the Lord bless you & your family richly also, I'm so glad you found the advice helpful

    • samsons1 profile image


      8 years ago from Tennessee

      voted up & beautiful! thanks Internet Writer 62, very good advice, my God richly bless you & yours as you write to His glory...

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you Creativeone59, for you encouraging and kind words, I am very happy that you liked this hub. Prayer does wonders when one writes, I asked God to write through me and to Him be the Glory. I do pray that this does touch many hearts, heaven knows this world needs more love. God Bless you.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      I applaud you internetwriter, and give you a standing ovation for this awesome and useful hub, that will touch many hearts that read it. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you ahostagesituation for you kind words and encouragement. I agree that judging people is at the heart of not loving others, especially when they start to succeed, the lack of support is unkind and unloving.

      I am still working at self refinement, I am, like everyone, a work in progress, I know what I don't want to be like, but I'm so far from who God wants me to be, yet since I first became a believer the Lord has done a great work in my life.

      I prayed before writing this article that He would write through me, So to God be the glory. Thanks for stopping by, and God Bless you.

    • ahostagesituation profile image


      8 years ago

      This is great. There seems to be a glitch in human nature that when we believe we are succeeding at something we are inclined to judge and condemn others with our perceived success. For instance, when a Christian believes they are worshipping in the correct way, they start looking over at their churchmate, and shaking their heads at his shameful, shameful sins. Or have you noticed that when a friend begins to workout regularly, or diet, they suddenly become a health prophet, and prophesy to anyone who can tolerate them about all the changes everyone should be making in nutrition. Judging one another is part of what makes the command to love one's enemies difficult. And it was condemned by Jesus because of the way it derails the commandment to love.

      I think that part of the reason behind that command to love your enemies, is for self-refinement. Of course you can love those to whom it comes easily, but it takes a great deal of character development, humility, and reliance on God to love those who are hostile towards you. It will make you stop, wonder, and hopefully pray on how you can show love even through hostility.

      Thanks for writing this!

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you Captain Jimmy for all the Bible verses you shared with me, they are all perfect examples of what it means to love ones enemy and put it in practice. Thank you for the link, and God Bless.

    • Captain Jimmy profile image

      Captain Jimmy 

      8 years ago from WV

      Good Hub!

      Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

      Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

      Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

      Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

      Romans 12:20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

      Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thanks Sandy, I'm glad you found the advice useful.

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you Harlan, I am so glad you stopped by, Yes Jesus is the reason for every season.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Great advice.

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 

      8 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      Great Hub IW2.

      I have missed reading your stuff. This internet out here is the worst, but I got through enough to read and leave a quick note. I can't wait to get home so I can start "loving my enemies" and my friends too of course - here on hubpages.

      I hope you are well.

      Jesus is the reason for every season!

      - Harlan


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