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Love your enemies



When someone does wrong to you it is human nature to want to seek revenge against them. You may think about inflicting the same pain on them which they inflicted on you. You relish a sense of satisfaction when an harmful experience comes upon the person who had originally harmed you.

So if a person wants to live a Christian life how should he treat someone who he would perceive as his enemy?

The advice of the apostle Paul

Paul was all too aware that just because a person was a Christian did not mean that they did not have enemies. So in his letter to those Christians who lived in Rome (and to all believers) he wrote these words:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…..Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.    Romans 12:14-21

The follower of Jesus must not be weak. It requires your character to be strong and your purpose in life clear to be able to return good when you faced with evil. It requires strength to bless others when it is obvious that they hate you.

Agape love

The secret to this strength is found a few verses earlier in chapter 12 when Paul says:

Let love be genuine.    Romans 12:9

The original Greek word [1] for “love” in this verse, is the word “Agape”. Agape is talking of a special kind of love – a sacrificial love. It is a sacrificial love that is controlled by the intellect of the person and not merely by emotions. In some cases, rather than letting our emotions control who we love, we let our intellect (our mind) give us direction as to who we love. In the case of someone who hates us, our emotions tell us to not love that person, but if we implement “agape” love our intellect (mind) tells us that we should love that person because we know that is what God wants us to do. “Agape”’ has a mental and moral quality to it, as we love something which may not normally love. So it aims to provide the greatest good for something.

The ultimate example of agape love was when God offered his son for the sins of humanity. Humanity had broken the commands of God and did not deserve the love of Him. But God showed “agape” love and sacrificed His son so that there would be a way of forgiveness for those who seeked it.

As a man or woman who wants to live the life of a Christian, we need to learn “agape” love, so that we apply the principles of agape love to those (our enemies) who we would not normally want to associate with.

Getting revenge v. Blessing your enemy

If someone does something against you then we need to stop and think rather than taking an instant reaction which we will later regret when we have calmed down.

The natural impulse would be for a man to retaliate against your attacker or at the very least hold a grievance against him for months (or perhaps years!).

But this is what the Bible says:

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.    Leviticus 19:18

God requires that a Christian will avoid these negative attitudes within us, and replace them with positive thoughts of doing good for your tormenter. He requires us to apply the principles of agape love – sacrificial love where we do good for those who do not deserve it.

As Paul says in the Romans chapter 12 quote (see above): bless those who persecute you. In this case, bless means to speak well about your enemy. This doesn’t mean empty praise of your enemy, but rather seeking the best for those who might be your enemy. It also means to not unduly condemn and criticise those who come up against us.

The greater judge

When we faced with provocation from a enemy, we should remember that there is a greater Judge who sees all things. It will be His decision whether He takes vengeance on our behalf in due course. Paul tells us this in verse 19 of Romans chapter 12 (quoted above).


So the message is that believers should not demean ourselves by trying to get back at their adversary. We need to forget about the lawsuit and forgive them instead.

There are three good reasons for forgiveness:

1.     Trying to get revenge on your enemy just hurts you as much as it does them as you will experiencing huge amounts of stress and bitterness.

2.     By forgiving your enemy and actually being kind to them. This may make them feel ashamed and change their ways.

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.     Proverbs 25:21-22

3.     If you take revenge, then they may take further action against you, which will lead to a never ending cycle of conflict. Your forgiveness of them may stop the cycle and lead to reconciliation with them.

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.      1 Peter 3:9

God commands us to love our enemy - so being a member of the armed forces goes against this commandment 

The armed forces

As God has commanded the believer to love your enemy, it is obviously impossible for a believer to be in the armed forces without disobeying God. Many countries have conscientious objections laws so that the believer does not go against his or her beliefs and defy God.




Stephen’s example

Stephen was one of the most prominent disciples appointed to look after the neglected poor in the Jerusalem church. As well as doing relief work with the needy he also became a powerful preacher of God’s message.

However, he was called before the Sanhedrin [2] who were angry at the opposition they were receiving from Christ’s followers. As a result, they illegally and brutally stoned this righteous man to death.

So here was a case where a righteous believer was faced with a enemy who he knew were about to kill him. What did he do? Did he curse them? Did he try to physically retaliate against them?

No….he chose to pray for them….


[1] The New Testament in the Bible was originally written in the Greek language.

[2] The Sanhedrin were a council of Jewish elders who were the legislative body in Judea.

And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.    Acts 7:60

What a example for us, when we are faced with a enemy.

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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 March 2015