Who is your enemy? What do they want from you? How can you love them? Have you ever genuinely prayed for them? And why would you want to pray for them? Where do you get the kind of empathy that flows from such a merciful heart? I’m not just talking about our enemies in the WAR ZONE – where the two countries are fighting with each other, but am also talking about the battlefields that we encounter on a daily basis with those around us. Life throws all kinds of challenges at us, but when it comes to dealing with people who are rude and who dislike you for no reason, it makes you wonder what to do with them. They could be a family member, a friend, or perhaps a neighbor. You may have tried many times to get close to them but they seem like they don’t care.
If you’ve noticed, in today’s world compassion is rare. If you show any kindness and humanity to some people, they may interpret it in the wrong way – either they think that you’re flirting with them or that you want something from them. These kinds of people are hard to love. They don’t leave any room for you to love them. At times they may look at you as though you are an enemy. Sometimes even they repay your good deeds with evil. Why? Don’t they know the heart is the home of love – where God’s spirit dwells?
The heart refers to the soul of a human being, that which controls the will and emotions. God created the human heart to mirror His own heart. Our hearts were designed to love Him and love others as much as He loves us. He gave us the power of free will to choose to love and serve Him by loving and respecting His creation. How awesome is that?! Unfortunately, we have abused the gift of free will. Some stubbornly refuse to follow God. They may even fool themselves into believing that they live a life that is pleasing to God, but sadly they don’t. That is why God compared the heart that refuses to obey His commands to a heart of stone. Such a heart can be hostile to those around them and it doesn’t resemble God’s heart (a heart of love) at all, but rather a heart of anger and hatred.
What God has commanded us in (Mark 12:30-31) is this;
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
In addition to explaining to his followers who is our neighbor and who is our enemy, Jesus continued telling them that they should be true to the real meaning of God’s law by loving their enemies as well as their neighbors. A Pharisee (religious leader) came to test Jesus and asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told him and the crowd the Parable of the Good Samaritan ( Luke 10:29 ). In reply Jesus said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus taught His followers that they must demonstrate love to all kinds of people—no matter their faith, nationality, or personality—enemies included. If we love our enemies and “pray for those who persecute us,” we then truly reveal that Jesus is the Lord of our life.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a great illustration of who is our neighbor, but what do we do with those people in our lives who are simply rude and difficult to deal with? They might seem to have their act together and it might also appear as if they have it all – money, a successful career, luxury cars, lavish homes, and other expensive items. They may travel the globe, but when they are with you, you are immediately aware that LOVE is nowhere to be found in their hearts. They are wrapped up in a materialistic lifestyle and worship/love only themselves. With extreme selfishness as their guide, they treat others unkindly or have no respect and compassion for the elderly. They often distance themselves from others, because they think themselves greater than everyone else. Unfortunately, they’re unaware that their outward appearance doesn’t match their inner self. No matter how hard you try to show them love, nothing seems to move their cold heart. It always has to be about them. What do we do? There has to be a way to point them to the light.
Again, If we search to see what God has told us about the treatment of those who are rude and disrespectful to us (enemies), we find that nowhere in the Bible does God say to “hate your enemy”. However, religious leaders have sometimes misapplied some of the Old Testament messages. For centuries in some cultures, people have never heard of the phrase “love your enemies” and they continue to practice hatred. In their upbringing, the way to deal with their enemies is to either to ignore or avoid those who try to harm them (change paths), or, more commonly, repay evil with evil. And in some cases, even good is repaid with evil.
Here is what God says in (1 Peter 3:9):
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
Jesus adds to that by raising the bar to higher level in (Matthew 5:43-48): “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven”. The Lord Jesus is saying, “To love those who love you is easy, but if you love those who are hard to love, it will bring you to a higher place.” It makes perfect sense. I want to have a blessed life. Don’t you?
But how do we do that? How should we pray for those neighbors, family members, or friends who are rude, unkind, or even harmful? Such a task is not easy. But as we bow down in the presence of God with humble hearts, He will give us strength and direction, He reminds us with these guidelines. 1- We must pray for the removal of their heart of stone, asking God to replace it with a heart of flesh. 2 – Pray for their redemption – that they would surrender themselves to the Lord. 3 – Pray for the restoration of their soul and lives.
As He says in (Ezekiel 36:26)
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Final thoughts – Since God is the one who causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, don’t you think this is the kind of love He wants us to show everyone? It takes a conscious effort. Loving our enemies means acting in their best interest; we can pray for them and we can think of ways to help them. God wants us to show integrity and leadership. He may call us to stand firm for what is right and at times, may have us draw a boundary, saying, “Enough is enough”, as He doesn’t want us to become our enemies’ doormats. These boundaries should, however, always be guided by prayer and applied with love.
So you must remember, it’s easy to show love to those who love you back, but the true test of faith is to love those who are hard to love. Though they may continue to close the door on you, one day your kind and loving example might be what God uses to soften their heart. So take the initiative in loving them and meeting their needs.
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE LOVED BY THE MOST HIGH AND YOU ARE A PRECIOUS CHILD OF HIS!