At the center of the teachings of Jesus is love—cross-like, non-violent, non-judgmental, enemy-embracing, all-inclusive, self-sacrificial, scandalously beautiful love. Jesus modeled this love to us through his life and especially by loving and forgiving his enemies, and he called us to follow his example (Mt 5:44). But enemy love is not easy, no easy solutions exist. This article suggests some practical steps that will help you on your journey to love even your worst enemy.
Consider your own failures.
Loving our enemies is difficult. We need God’s love and humility for doing this. A great way to grow in humility is realizing my own mistakes. We are all profoundly broken, and we are all profoundly in need of redemption. Realizing my own shortcomings will help me to be more generous with the shortcomings of others. Paul described himself as the worst of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). Being aware of our own shortcomings will help us to be more generous with the shortcomings of our enemy.
Unforgiveness is like poison. It makes us bitter, fosters hate and creates all kinds of health problems. On the cross, Jesus forgave his torturers and thereby modeled radical forgiveness. We can’t follow Jesus while keeping hate and bitterness towards someone in our heart. The way of Jesus is the way of forgiveness and enemy love. Forgive your enemy wholeheartedly. This is not easy. It is difficult. But it will free you from the poison of unforgiveness. True enemy love without forgiveness is impossible.
Ascribe worth to your enemy.
All humans are created in the image of God. Therefore, every human being is valuable. God loves every single human, and he wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim 2:4). If God ascribes worth to every human being, then we better do too. What God calls valuable we shouldn’t devalue.
We don’t know the full life story of our enemy, and we don’t know why our enemy behaves the way he does. While, for example, a bad childhood doesn’t justify the wrong behavior of your enemy, it certainly helps understand why your enemy is behaving in certain ways. Very often, victims become abusers. Jesus commanded his disciples not to judge (Mt 7:1) therefore, we shouldn’t.
Pray for your enemy.
Try to pray daily/weekly for your enemy. Pray that God will work in them, heal what’s broken in them, and speak to them. Bless them.
Have you ever heard an apology that went something like this: “I am sorry if I offended you”, or “I am sorry but…”? This type of apology will not work if you want to make an enemy your friend. You must apologize sincerely for your part of the dispute, even if you feel like you are not at fault. You must take full responsibility for whatever you did wrong.
Focus on the good qualities.
Satan is the accuser. He is always working to reduce people on their mistakes and shortcomings. Reducing a person to its failures will foster hate, and hate blends out everything praiseworthy about a person. Therefore, we constantly need to resist the urge to reduce a person to their shortcomings. What is praiseworthy and admirable about your enemy? What are gifts that God gave your enemy? Focus on the good qualities of your enemy.
Offer help if your enemy is clearly in need.
“Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:20-21, NET). God called us to overcome evil with good. Just as the good Samaritan helped his enemy, the robbed Jew, so should we help our enemies when they are in need.
Give a gift.
A gift given in the right way can calm anger (Proverbs 21:14).
Ask God to help you see your enemy through his eyes.
When you can see the beauty in the person who used to be your enemy, then you don’t have an enemy anymore. But in order to be able to reach this goal, we need to learn to see our enemy through God’s eyes. Ask God to help you see your enemy through his eyes. He will help you see your enemy with new eyes that will foster compassion in you.
Some related Quotes:
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
― Abraham Lincoln
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.