Bonhoeffer on Loving Your Enemies


Words and thoughts are not enough. Doing good involves all the things of daily life. “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink” (Romans 12:20) the same ways that brothers and sisters stand by each other in times of need, bind up each other’s wounds, ease each other’s pain, love of the enemy should do good to the enemy. Where in the world is there greater need, where are deeper wounds and pain than those of our enemies? Where is doing good more necessary and more blessed than for our enemies?

Here is the Lord’s most ignored commandment: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:27-28 That figures; it’s directly related to The Great Commandment.

Most of us are fine with loving our brethren, and even our neighbors, but our enemies? Surely, God never meant me to love my enemies. My enemies are the worst ever, worse even than the guys who nailed Jesus to the cross. He was able to forgive them, so they couldn’t have been all that bad. They only humiliated, tortured, and murdered him.

Of course, that attitudinal description is hyperbole, but you get the point. Fact is, I’m blessed with having no enemies per se, although I have a couple of acquaintances whose company I don’t exactly seek out. Oh, I pray for God’s blessing upon them, but that’s awfully cheap love, if it’s love at all. So, as God convicts me of my rotten attitude, I pray for his love to flow through me to them, with my goal being to bless them with it. I know I can’t do it on my own, so I keep praying.

An unloving attitude isn’t just my own, unique sin. Lots of other Christ-followers struggle with the same thing, ’cause that’s the flesh fighting against God’s indwelling Spirit. But its commonality doesn’t excuse me one iota; I’m accountable for my sin, regardless how many others do the same thing, so my job is to confess it, repent of it, and praise God for his wonderful mercy toward me.

Have I made it clear enough? Refusing to love your enemies is sin! And who is your enemy? Anyone for whom prayer is the last thing you want to do for them. If anyone fits that description, your job is to confess your unloving attitude, and all other sin in your life, to your Lord Jesus, even though he already knows all about it. Then you must turn away from the sin, which in this case means turning toward your enemies with the love that only your Heavenly Father can give you. If that still isn’t clear enough, listen to the Lord Jesus:

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (47) And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

“Perfection” here means completeness, which only God can give you. And he’ll only do that if you want it more than anything else … period.

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