Genuine Christians love their enemies

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

This verse is part of the Sermon on the Mount, and you can read it in context here

Anyone can love people who love them back. But…

  • loving our enemies,
  • blessing those who curse us,
  • doing good to those who hate us, and
  • praying for those who persecute us

…is much harder. We can do this only if we have the love of Jesus in our hearts.

Luke 6:27-36 is an expanded version of Matthew 5:44. It adds some practical examples to illustrate what loving your enemies means. For instance, if someone hits you on the one cheek, offer that he can hit you on the other cheek as well. If someone steals your cloak, offer him your tunic as well. Or, as the New Living Translation says, if he asks for your coat, offer him your shirt as well!

It is one thing to say that real Christians should love their enemies. But when we read passages like the one in Luke 6, the challenge comes a lot closer home.

Jesus not only taught us to do these things, but also gave us an example of how to do them. When the Roman soldiers nailed Him to the cross, He called out to God, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

How do you love your enemy and do good to those who hate you? Read Romans 12:19-21. This passage lists three things you can do:

  • Do not take revenge on your enemy for doing wrong to you
  • If your enemy is hungry, give him food
  • If your enemy is thirsty, give him something to drink.

The Bible calls this, “heap[ing] coals of fire on [your enemy’s] head.” What better way can there be to overcome evil than to overcome it by doing good?

What about blessing those who despitefully use you? And praying for those who persecute you, or misuse you? Our natural tendencies are to do the opposite of this. We like to get revenge in a way that somehow causes trouble for someone who has offended us. Often, we try to make sure our “revenge” is worse than what we have received. But that isn’t God’s way. The Bible tells us that “a soft answer turns away wrath.”

Loving our enemies is another one of Jesus’ teachings that is much easier to talk about than to practice. The key word in this passage is the word love. It is easier to love our enemies if we remember how God loved us. We were His enemy at one time. Yet He loved us so much that He sent His Son to earth to die for us.

How can we do anything less than to love our enemies, if He did this for us? Maybe, through our love for them, they will see God’s love and decide to accept it for themselves.

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

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  1. Seems simple to me.
    Do I love my life more than I love God?
    Do I love my country more than God loves the World?
    Do I love myself more than I love my enemy?
    Do I love my way of thinking more than God’s?

    Usually people counter with, “What if?”
    At what point does a “what if” take precedence over the written Word of God?

    I once tried to counter someone trying to refute my understanding of Scripture by referring to the second world war. We had just studied the teachings of Jesus, about walking the extra mile, loving your enemies, paying taxes and obeying the government over us. I replied by saying I would be killed as a traitor if the Nazi’s had invaded England and I lived by following Jesus, as I believed I should. He was aghast at me for even thinking such a thing, stating;
    You would be forced to speak German. I replied, then I would learn German and proclaim the Gospel in German.
    You would be eating sauerkraut, I replied then I would give God thanks for my food.
    You would be thrown into prison, I replied then like Paul, I would have a prison ministry.
    You would be shot, I replied then I would go home to be with my Lord.
    He walked away totally baffled and contemptuous.

    Carl, just journeying through.

  2. It is the Christian difference. Pray and love: this is what we must do,” he said, and not only with those who we consider our friends.

  3. Quite frankly this passage bothers me. And it is a classic example of looking at Bible history, the norms at the time and simple common sense. So we are to love a serial killer? Love rapists? Give my coat to someone with 20 arrests? Not stop them? Not call police? Just say ” here” and let them go about their merry way? Meanwhile the biblical era was executing various people for various offenses. So there seems to be a huge contradiction.

    I understand it in terms of being the better person. Say dealing with a jerk on the job and not sinking to his/her level. I also understand praying for those people. But there are no limits? Seriously? Meanwhile the same GOD gave us anger as a human trait.

    So someone breaks in your home and you just give them your stuff instead of shooting that person and/or calling police? Where are the limits? This is why I like historical references to go along with the Bible passages.

    The Bible also says to let the homeless in your home. How many people are doing that today? In many cases you would be insane to do it. Again, back then executions for various offenses were common. We do not execute today for most of the offenses back then. What about following the Bible in that case? The truth is we pick and choose because cultural norms changed.

    • I’m troubled by the number of believers who struggle with the concept of loving our enemies. Can’t we love a person without loving their deeds? Shouldn’t we see past the sinfulness of the action to the troubled soul behind the person who committed it? There are times for calling the police. They have a calling to prevent chaos in society. But to do so out of a spirit of vengeance isn’t following the example of Jesus. To shoot someone to protect myself or my possessions isn’t either. In the case of protecting others, we should still avoid taking human life — that isn’t in our place as Christians. Jesus gave us the sermon on the mount because He was promoting a new direction in dealing with others. As he also did in dealing with the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11)

  4. Im a christian and read the bible and i think the titles perfect. there is a difference between christians and real christians. one follows manmade doctrine the other follows God doctrine.they play bingo in the church, baptize babys, celebrate pegan holidays and live on every word their pastors say not God.there fake hypocrits if you cant egknowledge that with mainstream christianity the truth is not in you

  5. Maybe I don’t love well enough either although I read it in Scripture, love, love, love. I think that there is a Christian love but we don’t see it too often really. There’s the Superficial love that you see when you go to church. Hi Marge how are the kids? Not to say that sometimes it’s not a genuine but being a Christian is lonely business. There isn’t much love out there maybe there’s a lot of mere toleration of your presence. I am a Christian and I have little faith in other Christians so basically I am just waiting for death. Life can be terrifying especially when you’re not sure you actually belong to the Lord.

    • Hi, I think you hit the answer in the last sentence of your comment. You don’t have to depend on people if you depend on Jesus. He did his part by dying for your salvation. Make sure you tap into that: read your Bible, pray, and let him fill your heart with love for others. Then the rest will begin to fall into place as well. –LB

  6. You should remove ‘real’ from the Real Christians love their enemies billboard. The word ‘real’ makes the statement judgemental rather than just a statement. The word ‘real’ also gives credence to the belief of atheists, agnostics, and secular individuals that most Christians are hypocrites. Is that the message you wish to send?

    • Hi Kelly, Unfortunately, it seems that many “Christians” today are that by name only, not in practice. Jesus clearly said that ““If you love Me, keep My commandments.” [See John 14:15, 21]. This is one of the complaints that we hear a lot, that Christians don’t live up what they profess. If Christians in general lived up to their name, we could do as you ask. But until then we will need to qualify the word Christian with an adjective like real or genuine.

      • Hi there,
        Well I read Kelly’s comment and tend to agree with her, but I understand your point of view as well, so why don’t you try something like…. Born Again Christians love their enemies, b/c a lot of people call themselves Christian, but are not born again and as Jesus said in John 3:3, to see the Kingdom of God, you must be born again. Or if you don’t like that one, followers of Christ love their enemies….. Just a thought 🙂

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