Love Your Enemies

According to Matthew 5:43, religious leaders of the day were teaching people to hate their enemies. Jesus corrected the teachers by informing them they are supposed to love their enemies, pray for them, and do good to them, because that’s how their heavenly Father treats them (Matthew 5:44-48). For even people who are known for being evil perform acts of kindness to those they love. So how are we any different if we only do as they do? Rather, we must exhibit a deeper, stronger, selfless love – a love that seems nonsensical to those around us. That love is what Jesus was referring to when He used the Greek word agapao.

When taking a closer look at this Greek word, here is what Mounce’s has to say: “agapao is one of four Gk. verbs meaning ‘to love.’ In secular Greek especially before the time of Christ, it was a colorless word without any great depth of meaning, used frequently as a synonym of eros (sexual love) and phileo (the general term for love). If it had any nuance, it was the idea of love for the sake of its object. Perhaps because of its neutrality of meaning and perhaps because of this slight nuance of meaning, the biblical writers picked agapao to describe many forms of human love (e.g., husband and wife, Eph. 5:25, 28, 33) and, most importantly, God’s undeserved love for the unlovely. In other words, its meaning comes not from the Greek but from the biblical understanding of God’s love.” This love we are to have for our enemies is to be in both heart and action, just as for our siblings in Christ (1 John 3:18). Regarding the specific context of Matthew 5:44, Thayer’s says, “to have a preference for, wish well to, regard the welfare of.” This explains we are to care for our enemies on an emotional level. But emotions aren’t enough. We must actively engage ourselves in their well-being whenever possible. Strong’s gives a general definition of agapao: “to love; in the NT usually the active love of God for his Son and his people, and the active love his people are to have for God, each other, and even enemies.”

After studying this word agapao, it’s easy to understand what it means academically but perhaps not so much practically. How can we know how to properly apply the command to love our enemies into our daily lives? Since the command came from Jesus, the best thing we can do is look at His life. After all, He lived out the things He taught (Acts 1:1-2).

Jesus was altruistic. Amen. He deeply cared for the physical, emotional, mental, and, most importantly, spiritual well-being of others. His love for others is on full display throughout the Scriptures. Jesus never cared about what people looked like, how rich or poor they were, or what their backgrounds consisted of. He treated everyone how He wanted to be treated, just as He taught others to do (Luke 6:31). Jesus loved not only those who loved Him but even those who brutally murdered Him (Luke 23:32-34). He loved His enemies so much that He willingly died by means of crucifixion so they could be saved from their sins (Romans 5:6-11). And make no mistake, all of us who have sinned have been His enemies at some point(s) in our lives. And yet, Jesus bore the weight of the cross on His shoulders, so we don’t have to carry the weight of our sins on ours. As His past enemies, we all desperately needed His blood to cover our sins (and still do!). Thank God for His atoning sacrifice!

In conclusion, like Jesus our Leader, we must love our enemies as we follow His example. It’s easy to demonstrate kindness to those who are kind to us. But our true faith in God is proven when we are kind to those who are mistreating us. We are commanded to have our enemies’ best interest in mind. We are to pray for them. We must bless them and not curse them. For how does it bring glory to our Father in heaven if we only love the lovable?

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