Enemy-Love

Rodger Woodworth

We encounter an assortment of enemies in our world today, from terrorist leaders, to disagreeable neighbors, to bullying classmates and even some unforgiving friends.  The definition of an enemy contains such words as antagonistic, opponent, injure, harmful and deadly.  The Greek word for enemy literally means hatred and hostility - the opposite of love and friendship.  Yet as Christians we are taught to love our enemies, pray for them, bless them, and if they are hungry feed them and if they are thirsty give them a drink. 

We may be able to resist the temptation to take our own revenge on such people but Scripture is directing a loving, proactive, initiative towards those who oppose and even harm us.  It is not enough to just ignore them or keep our distance, we are to pursue loving acts of kindness in order to show that we belong to our heavenly Father.  Our God who shines his sun and sends his rain on the terrorist and the peacemaker, the socialist and the capitalist, the democrat and the republican, the righteous and the unrighteous.  God’s even-handedness gives himself generously to his enemies and to his children.  And when we live this way we magnify the glorious nature of God.

But let’s be honest, we look at the command to love our enemies as if it’s an intentional exaggeration by God to get us to at least love our neighbors.  Keirkegaard says, “it is like putting the clock ahead half an hour to make sure of not being late in the morning.”  At our best we agree with the poet Carl Sandberg, “Love your neighbor as yourself; but don’t take down the fence.”  At least don’t take down the fence until you are sure they are going to be good neighbors and if they turn out to be an enemy it may be time to move. 

If we are going to ever be used by God for his Kingdom, to be salty and distinctive, we must break our culture’s law of reciprocity.  The law of loving those who love us, doing good to those who are good, and repaying evil for evil, must be replaced with a counter-cultural love for the undeserving, the unlovable, and even the positively hostile.  This deeply subversive activity is exactly what God did for us when he reconciled us to himself through his Son’s death while we were still his enemies.


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