Love My Enemies?
Dirk Willems ran for his life! The year was 1569. The place was Asperen, Holland. Dirk had been accosted by a guard who meant to arrest him. As Dirk sped across the frosty ground trying to make his escape, he came to a body of water covered by thin ice. He darted onto the dangerous ice, endeavoring to evade capture. But suddenly he became aware that the guard, too, had followed him onto the ice but with terrible consequence; the thin ice had broken leaving the guard flailing futilely in the icy water!
Dirk quickly turned around and aided the drowning man, dragging him safely to the shore. The grateful guard intended to allow Dirk to go free, but a stern magistrate would hear nothing of it. He reminded the drenched man he was under oath to deliver criminals to justice. Dirk was bound and sent off to prison, interrogated, and tortured in an unsuccessful effort to make him renounce his faith. He was tried and found guilty of having been rebaptized, of holding secret meetings in his home, and of allowing baptism there—all of which he freely confessed. He was sentenced to execution by fire and died a cruel martyr’s death.
Why did Dirk risk his life, turn back, and rescue his pursuer? Was he a fool? No! Dirk was not a fool. Dirk was a disciple of Jesus Christ. He did exactly what Jesus Christ told His disciples to do. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.”
Dirk Willems belonged to a religious sect called the Anabaptists (rebaptizers). The Anabaptists believed that a Christian should not only believe in Jesus Christ, but that a Christian should also do what Jesus says.
“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Luke 6:27-36
Who are my enemies? My enemies are those who hate me. Those who show antagonism towards me. Those who harm me. Those who ruin me. Those who hurt me. These are my enemies! Does Jesus Christ really expect me to love dangerous people like these? Is it even possible to love one’s enemies?
Jesus Christ showed us that it is indeed possible to love our enemies. As his enemies drove nails into his hands and feet after they had torn away His clothes, beaten Him, and spit on Him, He prayed lovingly, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He was the Son of God. He was present at creation and yet He allowed Himself to be beaten and killed by the very humans He had created! He prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
How does Jesus Christ expect me to show love to my enemy?
- “Do good to them which hate you.”
- “Bless them which curse you.”
- “Pray for them which despitefully use you.”
- “Him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other.”
- “Him that taketh away thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also.”
- “Of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.”
It is much easier to hate your enemy than love him! Loving your enemy is the epitome of character strength and excellence. A man cannot attain this level of love merely by sheer determination and discipline. This kind of love may only be attained to by those who have experienced the cleansing power of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. When a person has been cleansed from sin and allows the power of the Holy Spirit of God to control his life, then and only then will he be able to truly love his bitterest enemy!
It is the business of God to settle the score of the injustices of the world. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 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. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).