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He didn’t say we should only love people on “our side” of a controversy.
It seems many nations are experiencing deeper divisions with each passing day. With every tweet, headline, and lawsuit, people seem to use the word enemy more frequently, even for fellow citizens—against whom it’s a particularly harsh insult. When we hear that world hurled around, we should—instead of hurling it back—call to mind quickly the lessons we find in the Bible.
A fundamental lesson Jesus Christ taught us—one that Christians should exemplify in every aspect of life—is that of loving our enemies.
That isn’t just a platitude. It’s hard work. We’re supposed to reflect in our lives the very character of God the Father and Jesus Christ—so, let’s take a moment to remember Jesus’ words:
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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:43–48).
If we all did as Jesus commanded, the world would quickly change. Just think of the hate, negativity, and division surrounding the election of U.S. President Joe Biden. People didn’t just accuse the other side of cheating or treason; they all too often delivered—and continue to deliver—those accusations with outright hatred in their hearts and their mouths. And, of course, we saw similar attitudes on display at the election of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and throughout his presidency.
That’s the “natural” way to treat enemies, as Jesus reminded us (v. 43). But the way of God is to love every human being. Godly love is much greater than an emotion or feeling; it’s a commitment to care for the ultimate wellbeing of other people, no matter their color, party, religion, background, or how much they disagree with us. And, as Jesus said, to love our enemies means to bless them, do good to them where possible, and pray for them.
Why? Even our worst enemies are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). God gives them the needed sunshine and rain, just as He gives it to us (Matthew 5:45). He desires that every human being be saved according to His will and timing (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
It is hard to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” And Jesus warned us that though the way to eternal life would be difficult, we should pursue it anyway (Matthew 7:13–14). This is a high bar—one of the highest we can reach for as Christ’s followers. But we can reach it with His help, if we persevere and strive to obey Him.
The 2020 U.S. election and so many other world issues—COVID-19, vaccinations, employment, warfare, and more—reveal the intense divisions between people today. This should be no surprise, as we are living in the end times, when Jesus said lawlessness—sin—would increase, causing people’s love to grow cold (Matthew 24:12). The Apostle Paul said that people in our time would be unloving and brutal (2 Timothy 3:3). We see his words fulfilled in 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)—a way 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.