It’s easy to love those we know, but to even love our enemies? That’s what Jesus’ taught us to do, so here are some of the best Bible verses about loving our enemies.
You Have Heard it Said
In what must have amounted to a stunning teaching to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, He said, “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” (Matt 5:43-44). Did this mean the Jews who were under Roman rule should love their captives? Was what they “have heard” part of the Old Testament Law? What did Jesus mean by saying, “You have heard it said,” and who is it that said this? Was this part of the civil law of ancient Israel? Modern scholarship believes that this saying wasn’t from in the Law but from the Scribes who interpreted the Law. There is no Old Testament Law anywhere that teaches we are to hate our enemies. God hated the pagan nation’s religions, which often included child sacrifice, but aliens were able to join themselves to Israel, provided they kept the Laws of God, and when Israel came out of their Egyptian bondage, there was a great, mixed multitude, likely containing of Israelites and some Egyptians, perhaps those who had witnessed the mighty miracles of God. There might have even slaves from other nations, but when Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said,” we know hating your enemies was not part of the Law of God. More likely, He was referring to Jewish tradition, or a spurious law that was added by the Scribes in their translation of the Law. Regardless of the original source, it was not taught in the Old Testament, and it was not taught by Jesus Christ. He said to love our enemies, not hate them.
Shattering the Norms
When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, He shattered the cultural norms of the day (John 4). He spoke with a woman in public and He spoke with a Samaritan woman which would have been unheard of in Jesus’ day. The Jews despised the Samaritans for various reasons, regarding them as a half-breed and traitors. The Samaritans were the remnants of the Northern Kingdom or ten Tribes of Israel, most of which had been taken away into captivity. The few that remained intermarried with the pagans, so the Jews would never talk to a Samaritan, especially a woman, and would go out of their way to avoid traveling through Samaria, even if it meant having to travel an additional twenty miles, but Jesus, turning the cultural norms upside down, said “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). The Apostle Paul must have understood this principle taught by Jesus because he instructed the Christians in Rome to never avenge themselves against their persecutors, but, “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” (Rom 12:20).
Good for Bad
Doing good to an enemy is a godly response to hatred. Remember that even “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6), “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Even more astounding, while we were still yet “enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5:10a). That is contrary to human nature because “one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die” (Rom 5:7), but to die for one’s enemy, and an ungodly, wicked one at that?! Since God showed that much love toward us, then we ought to do the same for those who don’t know Christ yet. Paul doesn’t want us to have spiritual amnesia about our own past and get puffed about God saving us but not others. And God also doesn’t want us to judge those outside the church which are not yet saved, so in order to keep our salvation in perspective, he reminds us that “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). We are not better than the lost…just better off.
Responding to Hate
James and John where called the Sons of Thunder, and we can see why when they actually wanted to call down fire down from heaven and have the village which rejected Jesus consumed by fire (Luke 9:54), but Jesus rebuked them for that (Luke 9:56). Had the disciples already forgotten that Jesus said, “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12)? I’m sure they wouldn’t want that for themselves. Had they not remembered Jesus’ saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9)? Even in the Old Testament Proverbs they must have been familiar with the proverb that said, “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” (Prov 25:21-22). We do not love our enemies in exchange for rewards from God. We are told, “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35). Loving God and loving neighbor are the essence of the Law and the Prophets, so when Jesus gave the disciples a new commandment, it also had to do with loving others. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34-35). We must love our enemies first, not expecting to be loved in return, because remember, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
We do not give our enemies what they deserve….we give them what they need, and that is love. To love your enemies is to be more like God Who died for us while still His enemy (Rom 5:10), so take these Bible verses about loving your enemies to heart, and read them over a few times, or at least, mark them in your Bible. And, please share these with someone so they too can see how we are commanded to love our enemies.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.