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Loving Our Enemies

Today's Devotional

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44

With the American Civil War spawning many bitter feelings, Abraham Lincoln saw fit to speak a kind word about the South. A shocked bystander asked how he could do so. He replied, “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Reflecting on those words a century later, Martin Luther King Jr. commented, “This is the power of redemptive love.”

In calling disciples of Christ to love their enemies, King looked to the teachings of Jesus. He noted that although believers might struggle to love those who persecute them, this love grows out of “a consistent and total surrender to God.” “When we love in this way,” King continued, “we’ll know God and experience the beauty of His holiness.” 

King referenced Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45). Jesus counseled against the conventional wisdom of the day of loving only one’s neighbors and hating one’s enemies. Instead, God the Father gives His children the strength to love those who oppose them.

It may feel impossible to love our enemies, but as we look to God for help, He’ll answer our prayers. He gives the courage to embrace this radical practice, for as Jesus said, “with God all things are possible” (19:26).

Who is your enemy? If you feel conflicted about loving those who oppose you, how could you submit those feelings to God?

Loving God, You’ve made me—as well as those who hurt me—in Your image. Help me to see them as You do.


In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus radically redefined what the people understood as their responsibility to the law of Moses. Christ said He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Then He introduces six topics—murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retribution, and love for enemies—with a version of the phrase “you have heard that it was said” followed by “but I tell you.” What’s interesting about Jesus’ explanation of what “you have heard” is that only a portion of it is recorded in the Old Testament. The other elements are likely part of the Mishnah, the traditions and interpretations of the Pharisees that placed further restrictions on people and had been elevated to be equal with the law of Moses. At least part of what Christ was doing was dismantling the power of the Pharisees’ interpretations and returning to the core of the law as God intended.

Dive deeper into the Sermon on the Mount.

By |2024-02-12T01:33:06-05:00February 12th, 2024|
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