How can I love my enemy and not be with them?

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By BibleAsk Team


The command to love one’s enemies is a central teaching in the New Testament, particularly emphasized by Jesus Christ in His Sermon on the Mount. It is a challenging concept that calls believers to extend love, compassion, and forgiveness even to those who may oppose or mistreat them. The Bible offers several references that explore this theme and provide guidance on how to love one’s enemies while also maintaining a commitment to righteousness and justice.

Understanding the Command to Love Enemies

Jesus’ Teaching in the Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV): “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

In this passage, Jesus challenges His followers to transcend the limited scope of love practiced by the world and embrace a radical form of love that extends even to enemies and those who mistreat them. He presents love as the distinguishing mark of true discipleship and calls believers to imitate the perfect love of God the Father.

The Essence of Charity

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV): “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

The apostle Paul provides a comprehensive description of Charity in this passage from his first letter to the Corinthians. This virtue as defined here, is characterized by patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, forgiveness, and endurance. It is a sacrificial and unconditional virtue that seeks the well-being of others, regardless of their actions or attitudes.

Balancing Love and Righteousness

Avoiding Association with the Wicked

Psalm 1:1-2 (NKJV): “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

The psalmist emphasizes the importance of avoiding association with the wicked and instead delighting in God’s law. This passage underscores the need for believers to exercise discernment in their relationships and associations, avoiding partnerships and alliances that compromise their commitment to righteousness and holiness. To love our enemies means that we treat them with respect and humility. We are to do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who mistreat us.

Proverbs 13:20 (NKJV): “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” The principle of loving people should not conflict with that of avoiding evil actions. Caring for people is not the same as taking part in sinning with people that you care for. Paul taught, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people” (1 Corinthians 5:9, NKJV). Balancing these principles is what we ought to do.  For example, Jesus associated with sinners to reach out to them, but He did not join them in sin (Luke 5:32).

It may be difficult to draw the line between these two aspects but the Holy Spirit can give us wisdom as to which actions show love and which actions join in sin (James 1:5). This is a matter that should be prayerfully undertaken considering the solemn warning we are given in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

Separation from Evil Influence

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NKJV): “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.'”

Paul exhorts believers to maintain spiritual purity and separation from evil influences. While Christians are called to love all people, they are also called to exercise discernment and avoid entanglement with those who promote ungodliness and oppose God’s truth. This passage emphasizes the importance of maintaining a distinct identity as children of God and living in accordance with His holy standards.

Matthew 5:29 (NKJV): “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” If the company of your non-Christian friends that are enemies of the Lord leads you into sin, then by all means you must avoid it.

Reconciliation of Love and Righteousness

Love as a Transformative Force

Romans 12:20-21 (NKJV): “Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Paul encourages believers to respond to evil with acts of kindness and generosity. By demonstrating love and compassion to their enemies, believers have the potential to bring about transformation and reconciliation. Love has the power to disarm hostility, soften hearts, and overcome evil with good.

Forgiveness and Grace

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV): “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Forgiveness is a central aspect of Christian love. Believers are called to release resentment and bitterness toward those who have wronged them and extend grace and forgiveness, just as God has forgiven them through Christ. By embracing forgiveness and extending grace, believers can cultivate an atmosphere of reconciliation and healing.

Conclusion

The command to love one’s enemies presents a profound challenge for believers, requiring them to transcend human inclinations toward retaliation and vengeance and embrace a radical form of love that reflects the character of God. While the Bible also emphasizes the importance of maintaining righteousness and avoiding association with the wicked, these principles are not incompatible with the command to love enemies. Instead, they complement one another, guiding believers in exercising discernment and wisdom in their relationships while also extending love, compassion, and forgiveness to all people, including those who may oppose or mistreat them. As believers seek to embody the love of Christ in their lives, they can trust in the transformative power of love to overcome evil, reconcile relationships, and bear witness to the redemptive grace of God.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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