43You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are doing than the others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? - Matthew 5:43-47
Enemies—how do we defeat them? By not resisting them (Matthew 5:39). Well, so I won’t resist them. But what can I do to my enemies?
Here’s what you can do. Verse 44 says, “Love your enemies.” There’s a little opposite thing we’ve got going here. What does this mean? Do good. Look for an opportunity: a letter of kindness when you receive something harsh; answer an insult with a compliment; a helping hand for their need. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” My experience is that when I return evil for evil, I’m consumed with it. But you really can overcome evil by doing good.
Here’s the hardest one though: Matthew 5:44b says, “Pray for” them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who suffered and was killed in Nazi Germany, wrote that Matthew 5:44 “is the supreme demand in all of Scripture, to pray for your enemies.” He said, “By prayer, we go to our enemy’s side and we stand with him and plead for him to God.”
Well, what exactly would I pray for my enemies? Pray that they might come to know Christ. Pray that God would bless their lives and help them, that your heart would be softened toward them. How about that God might give the strength to forgive them? How about that, through love and prayer for my enemies, God will help me to see His grace and strength in my life in the coolest ways that I’ve never, ever seen before?
The summary of both of those things, loving them and praying for them, is the first one: it’s loving them. Remember, those are all actions, not feelings. I’m really glad Jesus doesn’t say, like your enemies. You don’t have to like your enemies. You gotta love some people, but you don’t have to like them. Love is a commitment of my will to place someone else’s needs above my own. Jesus doesn’t say we have to enjoy them, or delight in them. He says we have to choose, even if by a tight-fisted, white-knuckled choice of our wills, to trust God and do what’s right, in regard to our enemies. He tells us to love them. — James MacDonald
Prayer: Dear Father, I realize this is a matter of obedience to You. Names have come to mind that I’m accepting as Your Spirit’s reminder. Help me to pray for my enemies, and count on You to give me guidance on the practical ways that I can love them—for Your sake and in Your strength. In Your name, Jesus, Amen.