In a world infected by hatred, Christ reveals the cure.
This world experiences deeper divisions with each passing day. With every tweet, headline, and lawsuit, enmity between individuals seems to increase. As we see politicians, celebrities, and activists add more and more names to their lists of enemies, we might call to mind certain biblical teachings and lessons.
One such lesson comes directly from Jesus Christ, and Christians should strive to apply it in every aspect of life: Loving our enemies. Christians can make the world better and reflect the very character of God the Father and Jesus Christ when they strive to live by this teaching.
The Bible repeats this striking principle several times. One passage that records Jesus’ own words is Matthew 5:43–48:
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…. Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
If applied, those few sentences would change the world. The recent United States presidential election, with the mountains of hate, negativity, and division surrounding it, highlighted the fact that there are many enemies in this world, even within national borders. Political parties, religions, ethnicities, and entire countries sadly find themselves often opposing one another in their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.
In verse 43, Jesus reminded His audience of mankind’s usual way of treating others—to “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” That’s the way most enemies interact, as shown in much of the news. But Jesus said there’s another way, a superior way.
The way of God the Father and Jesus Christ is to love every human being. The true love of God is much greater than an emotion—it’s a commitment to care for the ultimate well-being of other people, no matter their color, party, religion, background, or how much they disagree with us.
Jesus said that to love our enemies means to bless them, do good to them whenever possible, and pray for them. Fundamentally, it means remembering that even our worst enemies are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). God provides them with needed sunshine and rain, just like He does for us (Matthew 5:45). God desires that every human being be saved according to His will and timing (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
This is one of the hardest aspects of God’s character to follow. Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, after explaining the principle of loving one’s enemies, “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This trait of loving others, even enemies, is equated with being perfect, like God. Obviously, this is a high bar—one of the highest we can reach as followers of Christ. But the level of difficulty doesn’t really matter. Jesus said the way to eternal life would be difficult, and told us to pursue it anyway (Matthew 7:13–14).
The recent election, along with many other world issues, spotlights the intense divisions between many people. We’re living in the end times, those in which Jesus said lawlessness—sin—would increase, causing the love of many people to grow cold (Matthew 24:12). Paul said people at the end time would be unloving and brutal (2 Timothy 3:3). These prophecies are being fulfilled in our daily headlines. This is the result of Satan’s way.
But Jesus taught a much better way, what Paul called “a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31), based on God’s lovingkindness. God hasn’t called Christians to change the governments of this world through politics, voting, or protests. Instead, He wants us to follow in His Son’s footsteps by setting the right example. To do so, we must obey God’s law of love and strive to live by some of Jesus Christ’s most powerful words: Love your enemies, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them.