Why Believers Are Commanded to Love Their Enemies (And How to Do It)

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and do good to them, but also to love our enemies, so how can we do that?

God Loved His Enemies

Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and do good to them, but also to love our enemies, so how can we do that? Many people say they love God and I hope you can too, but it was actually God Who made the first move. The only reason we love God today is because He loved us first, or as the Apostle John wrote, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God chose to love His enemies first before His enemies loved Him and well before we were even reconciled back to Him through Jesus Christ. These He caused to be born again, not by our will but by His will, because “all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). God gave first and God gave the most (John 3:16). What more could He give than His One and only Son! God demanded a perfect sacrifice, so God became the perfect sacrifice in Christ Jesus. God supplied what God demanded. That’s amazing grace, isn’t it?

The First Move

Since God made the first move in loving us, how can we not make that first move with others? Jesus’ command to go into all the world doesn’t mean we forget to go next door. Incidentally, that is an imperative command, not a “hope you’ll do this” suggestion. If He is our Lord, whatever He says is a command, right? How do you love your enemies? You share the gospel with them but you also live it out. You might be the only glimpse of Jesus Christ they’ll ever see. Be the light! Be the salt! Love them first. Pray for them. Do good to them.

Upside-Downing the World

I love the Scripture that say that the apostles were turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6) and filling Jerusalem with the gospel (Acts 5:28)! The Apostles felt compelled to do that, beaten or not (Acts 5:29). I wished that could be said of me personally! How did these early believers turn the world upside down, or contrary to the world’s norm? Jesus said it through Luke the Physician where Jesus tells His disciples, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). That doesn’t sound hard…that sounds impossible, but it is only through the Spirit that we can love the un-loveable and pray for the enemy in our life, but that one person who is really hostile to your faith may be just the one God wants to reach. Pray for them, even when you don’t feel like it. Do good to them, even when they do bad to you. Don’t wait until you feel like it. Bless them when they curse you or speak ill of you. Charles Spurgeon once wrote something like this: “When someone speaks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are far worse that he believes you to be.”

Once an Enemy

Let us not forget that we were once enemies of God. Don’t fool yourself into think you’ve been a fairly good person most of your life, for good persons do not exist (Rom 3:10-12). Only God is good, but remember this. It was still yet “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). He didn’t wait for us to get our act together (we were weak!); otherwise we’d never be saved. He died for the ungodly while we were still ungodly, and folks, that’s us! Or at least it was us. To make the Apostles Paul’s point emphatic, he wrote that “one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:7-8). So far, we have God dying for the ungodly, then we have God dying for sinners (that’s us!), but finally and incredibly, there’s more. Oh, so much more. Jesus Christ suffered and died for us who were ungodly sinners, but also “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom 5:10).

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Have Mercy

Jesus Christ died for us who were ungodly, wicked enemies of God! Should not that soften our hearts for those who are perishing without Christ and compel us to have mercy on those who are headed to eternal doom, and casting ourselves before them in front of the gates of hell? And we do that by presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ? Like Charles Spurgeon once said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and un-prayed for.” If there was a bridge out around a blind corner on a highway, would we not stop and warn the coming motorist? Surely we would, so how can we not warn them of the wrath to come in order that they might seek the Savior. The most loving thing we can do is be willing to offend someone in order that they might be saved.  The wrath of God makes the mercy of God relevant.


If you have not repented of your sins and placed your trust in the Savior, then you are still, even now, an enemy of God (Rom 2). And that’s bad news because sinners are only storing up God’s wrath for judgment day (Rom 2:5-13). The point is that if you die before being saved, it is judgment time and too late to repent (Heb 9:27). This is why I prayed when I wrote this, that all who read this have already trusted in Christ. You already know, there is no other way to be saved (Acts 4:12, 16:30-31). Now, go and tell others (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

Here is some related reading for you: How We Can Love Our Enemies

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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