Ask Dr. Stanley: How can I love my enemies?
It isn’t natural to want to bless those who hurt us, but God’s redemptive power is able to transform anything.
Q: What does it mean to “love my enemies?” How are we to love people who continually hurt us?
A: Sometimes the commands of the Bible seem impossible to obey. And the Lord’s charge to love our enemies is among the most difficult. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preached, “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).
This statement shocked those who heard it, because it didn’t line up with conventional wisdom. And if we’re honest, the very thought of extending mercy and kindness to our enemies seems just as radical today as it did then.
Let’s be clear on something: The Lord doesn’t ask us to love everyone in the same way that we love our family and friends. And He doesn’t command us to love their actions. But we need to remember that our struggle is not “against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12 NLT).
Beneath all the layers of sin and hurtful actions is a person made in the image of God—a person in need of the same redemption graciously bestowed upon you and me. The challenge is to keep that perspective at all times, remembering with humility that we, too, are in need of a Savior.
It’s not natural for us to love wicked, vile people who cause all kinds of heartache and misery in the world. We can do so only through the Holy Spirit living within us. Rely on Him, and say, “Lord, it’s very difficult for me to love this person, but I’m going to trust You to love him (or her) through me, because in my own natural abilities and capacities, I’m unable to do it.”
Pray for the difficult individuals in your life, and you will begin to view them as God does. He sees these people for who they are meant to be, not merely as they presently are. Before long, your whole attitude will change, and that’s the work of almighty God.
For more questions and answers, tune in to In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley each week (check local listings)—or visit Ask Dr. Stanley.