In Luke 10:29, a lawyer asked Jesus about who would be considered a “neighbor”. Jesus proceeded to illustrate the answer with a parable that we call, “The Good Samaritan”. This helps us understand that our neighbor might not be someone just like ourselves, and maybe not someone who lives in the same neighborhood as us, but we are to love them, anyway.
However, in addition to understanding who our neighbors are, there is another group that we are commanded to love, in Matthew 5:44:
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven….But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 5:16, 44 NASB
To help us live out this verse, we could ask ourselves a different question from the lawyer identified above: Who is my enemy?
Today, it may be difficult to define who our enemies are, though. We try to live at peace with everyone (see Romans 12:18), and just un-friend those whom we dislike on Facebook. It’s often more socially acceptable to call someone names or gossip about them, rather than define him or her – out loud – as our enemy (even if our actions do so).
While considering who we should show God’s love to, there may be those about whom we don’t want to use the word “enemy” (because we’re “above” that), but to whom this verse might still apply in our lives.
Do any of the following kinds of people exist in your life, today?
- Enemies by another name, like “rivals”, “opponents”, “those people”, “the world”, or (occasionally) “in-laws”.
- Frienemies – Those who you call friends, but actually clash with over a lot of important things.
- Groups of people (perhaps defined by their political preference, nationality, beliefs, habits, sports team preference, or other points of view) that you not disagree with. If you want to punch someone in the face every time they open his or her mouth (or start typing), this might be a sign that you consider them an enemy.
- Those who consider themselves your enemies (even if you don’t share that opinion), ranging from the person you were tailgating out of anger (and who responded by driving 10 mph slower in the fast lane), to those whose ideology causes them to want to destroy you.
- Any person or group you refer to as “them”.
While it may feel harsh to label someone as an “enemy”, that doesn’t mean that we don’t make excuses not to love someone. When we are ready to love everyone, then we’re ready to live out Jesus’ commands.
To test this out, run through the list above, pick out a couple of people or groups that might fit into this category for you, and pray for God’s blessing upon them. Note that I’m not suggesting that you ask God to bless any sinful actions. Sometimes, I pray that God will bless someone to follow His will, for instance. Similarly, you can pray that God will call your enemy to Himself, that he will help you to be Christ-like, and that He will provide this person with holy wisdom.
If that seems uncomfortable, make a note on your prayer list to continue praying for this person or group for another week or so, and see if following Jesus’ instructions gets easier with practice. If not, challenge yourself to get just a little bit closer to being like Jesus, who prayed for those who were torturing him, killing him, and dividing up his clothes (see Luke 23:33-34). Finally, if you don’t feel that you have it in you to do this – I don’t want to imply that this is easy – remember what Jesus said in Mark 10:27.
Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
Mark 10:27 NASB
For more reading, see also: