She had once been a good friend, but, for a time, she was my enemy.

Four years after becoming her pastor, I noticed our relationship changed from friendly to unfriendly…at her request. The church’s governing body made a decision that affected her position in the church. A decision that protected her and the church, but she didn’t view it that way. From her perspective, we were questioning her integrity. Although I only consented to the decision, I became her target. I knew we were enemies when I noticed that every Sunday, she read her Bible while I preached. Happily, a couple of years later, we resolved our differences.

Jesus’ command to love my enemies doesn’t make the task any easier.

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you (Matthew 5:44 KJV).

Loving my enemies means admitting I can’t love my enemies, at least, not in my own strength. The command is ludicrous when taken at face value. I’m supposed to love someone who hates me…who intends to harm me physically or emotionally? No one in their right mind attempts such a feat, or even sees the need to.

Thankfully, Jesus’ world isn’t like mine. In fact, his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is decorated with what appears to be senseless commands. Loving my enemies is but one. Obeying this command—and others—entails letting Christ fulfill it through me. When I rely on his indwelling Spirit’s strength, I can love those who are unlovable and who don’t love me in return. And Jesus doesn’t ask me to do what he didn’t. While hanging on the cross…bruised and battered…he asked the Father to forgive those who crucified him: his enemies.

Why should I love my enemies? Because God does, and because it’s his mandate for me to want everyone to experience his love as I do. Only unexplainable love can accomplish this. Who don’t you love that you need to?

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash