Loving the Enemy

Recently my family and I moved from Iowa to Colorado. What should have been an exciting time was anything but, as the move brought out anger, frustration, and bitterness in me. The move wasn't smooth, the moving company was not kind and gracious, and nothing was going as planned. Kindness and goodness was quickly pushed aside as cold and callousness reared its ugly head.

Agape Love

Paul writes in Romans 12:9-21 that we are to love. The love Paul speaks of is a love that is active, true, and authentic. It's a love we all struggle with because often our love is dependent on someone else's actions. Our "love" can become fleeting. Our love is often times not devoted and steady--which is the opposite of the love Paul speaks of. The "agape" love (a Greek word for unconditional love) to which Paul calls us is one that isn't dependent on a returned love. Agape simply is: love, regardless. Agape is unconditional, sacrificial, and non-dependent in its love. It's a love that persists regardless of what is going on. This is where we struggle.

The Struggle with Love

It is extremely hard for us to love others when the actions they take are unloving. It is extremely hard for us to love others who seek out harm upon others. And it is extremely hard for us to love anyone who treats us poorly. The challenge from Paul is that regardless of how others treat you our response must be love. 

Do you have an enemy? Love them. They may consider YOU their enemy but you are NOT to consider them yours. So love them regardless. Don't love them with a hope of driving them crazy, but love them because love is good, wholesome, and true.

At some point our friends will not be kind and may even betray us. Do not repay that betrayal with more betrayal. Do not harbor hate or anger. Instead, love them. Respond to them with pure, intentional, forgiving love.

To those that talk about you behind your back and spread rumors? Love them. Don't share with others THEIR laundry of secrets in return. Instead, hold your tongue and extend your heart.

The Love of Christ As Our Example

This love Paul speaks of is hard. We read in another of Paul's letters (Col 4:14) that we must "put on love" which means we wear it with intention, like putting on a coat. The love we are to live and give takes work. Hard work. But the peace we have is knowing that this is not something that is foreign to us. This "agape" love is one that Christ speaks of and acted out as well. "God demonstrated his own love (agape) for us in this way: while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). Christ's love is unconditional and responsive. Christ's love is a love that is authentic, true, and not dependent on us deserving love first.

As my family and I were driving through the middle of Nebraska, and as my anger was seething at the movers and the company, I realized that I could respond with anger and hate or with love and goodness. I could release the anger that was building up or I could let it build and explode and allow anger to fight anger. I chose love. Evil does not overcome evil just as darkness does not overcome darkness. This became a wonderful opportunity for me to teach my kids a lesson on agape as well as take one more step towards Kingdom living. Just as Christ loves, just as he died and gave up his life for you...we too love. This is a struggle, but it's a struggle that we are called to live into and overcome. By the grace of God and the strength of the Spirit, love will overcome.

Some Tips

This is a struggle for us and it will constantly be so. People are fickle and change constantly (as do you and I) so here are some thoughts and suggestions on letting love lead.

  1. Breathe. Most of the good decisions I have made in life did not come from quick reactions. Take a second and calm down. Step away from the situation and allow your emotions to settle back down before you react.
  2. Pray. Ask God to guide your heart. He knows the struggle you have and the anger you are feeling so ask him to respond for you.
  3. Choose your response. While you cannot control what other people do, you can control how you respond.
  4. Follow Christ’s lead. Christ always spoke with love--even when speaking with those who sought his life.
  5. Lean upon Scripture.
  • “Be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50).
  • “Turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39).
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).
  • “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me in” (Matt 25:35).
  • “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28).
  • “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

Each day we are given new opportunities to bless and love others, even those who get under our skin and rub us the wrong way. Each day we are asked to be dwellers of heaven on earth today. So let us love others like our lives depend on it--even when they treat us otherwise.

About the author — Rev. Kelly Vander Woude

Kelly Vander Woude is always looking for something yummy to put on his smoker…and then getting friends and family to enjoy it with him. When he’s not smoking food he can be found playing and hanging out with his two kids, wife, and their dog, as well as preaching at Immanuel CRC in Fort Collins, CO. Oh…and he’s usually trying to learn some new musical instrument with the hopes of one day mastering at least one of them! You can find more of his writings at thesimplepreacherblog.wordpress.com

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