It would be remiss of me to think that there is anyone in this world that has never had an enemy. Much less, somebody that they have actively rooted against or wished they failed. Sadly, no one has escaped these thoughts and while Jesus has specifically called us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), what does that look like exactly?
A recent quote from Dorothy Day really has convicted me when she said:
“I only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”
Ouch, right? It’s a staunch reminder that the way we love others showcases our love for our God. I’m also reminded that I can’t truly say I love God and then go on to hate my brother or sister (1 John 4:20). The more I hate someone that God created, the more love that is taken from my heart to give to God. In the Christian life, love and hate are very much mutually exclusive. No matter what somebody has done, we are reminded that as we have been forgiven of much, we too much forgive others as a result (Ephesians 4:32). This doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation, but it does mean that I let go of my right to get even and seek revenge.
Matthew 6:14-15 even gives a heavy word on this subject when Jesus says:
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours.”
Often, we can think incorrectly about revenge and vengeance and justify it with our own logic but if we look at Proverbs 24:17, it specifically reminds us that is not the case:
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart rejoice when he stumbles,” – Proverbs 24:17
In Matthew 22, Jesus outlined the two most important commandments in the Bible which was to love God with all of your heart and then to love your neighbor as yourself. The reason I love this is because I believe it conveys priority in how to accomplish this type of love in our lives. In order for us to love our neighbors and our brothers/sisters, we have to love God. If we try to love these people without loving God first and foremost, we won’t love them properly or at all. This is especially true when trying to love our enemies.
If I’m rooting for the demise of a person rather than the demise of a problem, it reveals a lot about the state of my heart because like Dorothy Day says, “I only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Our goal for loving those around us should always be to love others the way Christ loves us and that includes having the humility to understand that we don’t deserve grace anymore than the next person, regardless of the difference of sin.
Truly loving our enemies doesn’t simply mean that we don’t acknowledge hatred, but it goes a step beyond that to wish for the very best for them. That God’s will for their life would be realized and accepted by them. That God would prosper and flourish them as they seek to follow His leading in their life. Whether they are a Christian or not, our hearts should never root against them. It should desire to see them the way that God does.