As Christians, our highest calling is to love. God calls us to love Him above all else and love our neighbors as ourselves. Many people think that when the Bible says “love your neighbor” it means we are supposed to love our family, friends, acquaintances, and maybe a few strangers along the way. However, the call to love stretches far beyond our inner circle. We are not exempt from loving anyone, not even our enemies.

How can God insist that we love our co-worker who has been spreading rumors about us, or our mother-in-law who we can never seem to be good enough for? How can we be expected to love those people who are so unloving to us? In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches us that we are to love even our enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” Matthew 5:43-45.

It’s clear that Jesus calls us to be counter-cultural by loving our enemies, but why should we?

We are children of God.

We should love our enemies because God commands, and anything God commands us to do is for our benefit. More than that, we should love our enemies because it is one of the trademarks of being a son or daughter of God. Recall the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44-45,

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

As children of God, loving our neighbors isn’t optional, God expects us to love our enemies if we call ourselves His children. We should strive to produce the fruit of showing love to our enemies. If we deliberately ignore God’s command to love our enemies, we are in dire need of a spiritual self-evaluation.

We sin against God.

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” Matthew 25:40

All humankind is created in the image of God. Therefore, we can’t separate our love for God from our love for humankind. By loving our enemies we show love to God. Likewise, when we despise our enemies we also despise God because He made everyone in His image, even our enemies. King David illustrates this fact beautifully in Psalm 51:4 after committing adultery with Bathsheba he cries out,

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgement.” Psalm 51:4

David got it. He understood that by sinning against Bathsheba, he also transgressed against his heavenly Father and it rocked him to the core. The sin of David is different than the sin of failing to love our enemies but the same concept applies. When we sin against our neighbor, enemy or not, we sin against God.

No excuses.

We have no excuse not to love our enemy. Often, when we read passages of scripture that command us to love our enemies we come up with a ton of excuses to absolve us of our responsibility. We think that if we don’t feel loved by someone then we don’t have to show love to them. This lie couldn’t be farther from the truth.

We have no excuse not to love everyone, including those who grind our gears, or even those who persecute us. We have no excuse because any level of love that God calls us to display to another human being, has already been extended to us by God more deeply than we can hope to understand.

God loved us first before we even knew who he was. He didn’t wait for us to start loving him, he took the initiative. Paul, in Romans 5:10 explains the depth of God’s love for us before we even knew him,

“While we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son.” Romans 5:10

While we were still enemies of God, out of His love for us, He sent His Son to die on the cross and reconcile us to Himself. Therefore, if we are to be like Christ as the Bible commands us, we can’t twiddle our thumbs, waiting for our enemies to love us, we have to love them first, because that’s exactly what God did for us. God has extended this undeserved love to us and expects us to do the same to our enemies.

A wonderful witness.

Taking vengeance on those who wrong us is glorified in our culture. We are taught to hate those who hate us. As Christians, loving our enemies, serves as one of the most powerful witnessing tools. God calls us to be salt and light, to stand out in the crowd. What better way to do so then to do something so utterly unheard-of and counter-cultural like loving our enemies? Displaying this Christ-like love in today’s hate-filled world will force people to take notice and wonder who or what could compel us to love our enemies.

It’s not an easy road.

Simply knowing why we should love your enemies doesn’t means it’s easy to accomplish. It can seem impossible to overcome your feelings of animosity that harden your heart. However, it is possible with God. Admit to God that you struggle to love your enemies, he already knows anyway. Take the first step and admit your weakness and ask God to help you understand how to love your enemies and ask him to fulfill the call in your heart. Next time you’re faced with the choice to love your enemy, ask yourself what you would say or do if that person was your best friend in the whole world and do it.

Even though every fiber of your being tells you to hate your enemy, if you respond to them like you would respond to someone you love, amazing transformation can take place.

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” Abraham Lincoln.