Is It Really Possible To Love Our Enemies?

My life is a simple one compared to many who suffer around the world. I do not have to worry about those who might threaten my freedom or inflict bodily harm against me. My enemies are not defined by race, religion, politics, age or gender. So, who are my enemies?

My enemies are those who love to push my buttons. They believe they are always right. They are self-centered and love to win – at all costs. They aren’t able (or willing) to let ‘bygones be bygones.’ They have either hurt me or those who I love. They are exasperating, manipulative and refuse to compromise. They confuse me and cause me great distress until I finally identify them for what they are – my enemy.

Jesus challenged the disciples and all those listening to the famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ with these words. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45a)

My enemies have come in many shapes and sizes. The vast majority have been women, but one was a high school student that I taught over two decades ago! He didn’t do anything specifically to harm me, but he certainly pushed my buttons! He was the class clown. He had a killer grin. He was mischievous to the point that I regularly had to take him in the hallway to try to find some common ground.

He was the kid that educated me on how to love and persevere toward peace. He is the one who drove me to my knees in prayer! Prayer not just for me and my attitude, but prayer for this young man who holds an especially dear place in my heart to this day!

Years ago, I had heard it said that ‘It is impossible to hate the one you are praying for.’ Initially, I wasn’t so sure that this thought would hold true in real life - or that it was even Biblical. However, I have found this simple statement to be true in many difficult situations. My prayers for my enemies usually goes something like this…

  • Okay God. I’m praying for _____ today because you say I should. (but I’m not sure it’ll do any good!)
  • Bless my enemy, Lord. (I surely don’t want to, but you say we should bless them. So here I am – asking.)
  • They make me so angry Lord, but (out of obedience) I do ask you to bless them today.
  • I’m tired of having my thoughts of them turn my life upside down. I know you love them, Lord (even though I don’t know why!). Please bless them.
  • They hurt me so badly. I’m so angry and confused. Bless my enemy, Lord.
  • Wow! I haven’t thought about them for a while. Bless ___________, Lord. Draw them close to You.
  • Heal my heart, Lord. Thank you for being with me. Please forgive me. Thank you for creating ___________, and bless them.
  • I don’t know what is in their heart, Lord. I do know that ‘hurt people, hurt people.’ Heal them too, Lord.
  • Thank you, Lord, for ___________________. Bless them. Provide for them. Protect them. Love them.

What causes my heart to switch? How do my prayers turnaround in such a profound way? I don’t really know. But, I do know that God has walked me through multiple ‘enemies’ in the same way. My pain and confusion slowly melt into compassion and grace. It is actually a miracle – something that is beyond my human control. It is evidence of God’s extraordinary grace at work in my life. It's hard for me to truly comprehend, but so sweet to the soul!

Have you identified your enemies? 

Are you able to “Bless those who persecute you” and be proactive in those relationships by “overcoming evil with good.” Are you able to refrain from repaying “evil for evil”? Does anyone come to mind when you read this proverb? “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.” Or, are you able to “live at peace with everyone…as far as it depends on you?” (Romans 12:14, 17a, 21, Proverbs 24:17a, Romans 12:18)

As we consider Jesus’ command to love our enemies we must also consider the actual source of this on-going battle.For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) We may see the face of our enemy when we feel the pain of betrayal or loss, but we must always keep our focus on the true war that is raging around us. The struggle is real, but it is not against the those in the "flesh" around us.

Is it possible to love our enemies? Yes, I can definitely testify to that reality! With the help and power of the Holy Spirit we can pray through our troubled times and come out on the other side with true peace and God’s miraculous grace. Because “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Take that first step of healing today – and begin to pray for your enemies!


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