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 you persecute you (Matthew 5:43–44, esv).
There’s a way to get rid of your enemies.
It’s legal, it’s effective, and there’s no Mafia involved.
And the reality is, any other alternative is guaranteed to keep those enemies in your life for as long as you’re alive.
“Trust the Lord with your enemies.”
It’s easy to accumulate enemies—people who’ve set themselves in opposition to your well-being; people who don’t want you to enjoy or experience good things; people who are working against you, either through their actions or neglect, to keep life from happening the way you want. It could be a former friend, a coworker, a competitor in the marketplace, a sibling who’s jealous of your achievements, or perhaps even your own spouse. You may have picked up some of these enemies by doing something wrong to them. You hurt them. Or by doing something courageously right, yet unpopular—a stance they didn’t particularly like or appreciate. It’s caused them to take offense toward you. Or perhaps you did nothing at all to them, besides just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Keeping enemies is easy too. All it takes is treating them in ways that come naturally to you, reacting toward them in raw emotion and instinct. Wanting revenge: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38). Staying angry and bitter, adopting the policy that says “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Wallowing in the pain inflicted by those who “spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, nkjv).
But if you respond to your enemies the way your flesh wants to respond, your enemies will destroy you or you will destroy yourself. If you choose to hate, retaliate, and get even with them, you create the environment that keeps them always in your head, in your mind, and in your heart—and never free of them.
Jesus’ words of direction to us in these matters—and we know them well—cut against our grain. Turn the other cheek. Go the second mile. Give more than we’re asked for. But the main idea—and the proven way to become free of your enemies—is found in these difficult statements: “Do not resist the one who is evil” (Matthew 5:39). Or as Paul said, “Repay no one evil for evil” (Romans 12:17). Or as Solomon said, “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you” (Proverbs 20:22).
If you’re fine with carrying your enemies around with you on your back all the time, then do what comes naturally: Be mad. Remain bitter. Review the offense over and over in your mind. Rehearse fantasies of vengeance. But understand that if you choose this road, those individuals will always have power over you.
Instead trust the Lord with your enemies. Choose a brave, bold path: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45).
Your problem with your enemies isn’t really your enemies. Your problem, when you resist and retaliate against them, is that you become your enemy. If you want to be free from all your enemies—yourself included—trust God with them.
Lord, few things run counter to my natural feelings more than how You tell me to respond to my enemies. But I know I serve a Savior who suffered greatly at the hands of His enemies—even though He, unlike me, had done nothing wrong. I want to walk in closer fellowship with Him. I want to experience the intimacy of identifying with Him in this way. So I ask You, Father, to give me the grace to love my enemies with the same love You showed me when I was an enemy of Yours—the same love You continue to show me whenever I oppose or rebel against You, even now. You are asking me to walk a hard path, but I know You are actually offering me freedom. And I accept it today in Jesus’ name, amen.