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.
By David Wilkerson
Often, God's command to love our enemies can seem like bitter, distasteful medicine. But, like the castor oil I had to swallow in my youth, it's medicine that heals. Many Christians aren't willing to take this medicine. They see it expressed in scripture, but they rarely abide by it. They still feel justified in despising their enemies.
Yet Jesus states very clearly: " 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" (Matthew 5:43-44).
Was Jesus contradicting the law here? Not at all. He was reversing the spirit of flesh that had entered the law. At that time, Jews loved only other Jews. A Jew wasn't to shake hands with a Gentile, or even allow his robe to swish against an outsider's clothing. Yet this wasn't the spirit of the law. The law was holy, instructing, "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you" (Proverbs 25:21-22).
Jesus also addressed the Old Testament law regarding hurts and injuries. He stated, "You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matthew 5:38-39).
Under the Mosaic law, anyone who caused an injury was to be compensated in like manner - hurt for hurt, smiting for smiting. Yet this wasn't to be so under Christ's ministry of grace. Indeed, Jesus' command to love our neighbors was meant to include even our enemies.
You may ask, "Are we supposed to love evil people - abortion doctors, unscrupulous politicians, militant homosexuals who claim Jesus was gay? Doesn't the Bible tell us we're to cry out against sin and fiercely resist evildoers?" Yes, it does. But we are to resist these people's evil ways without hating their persons.