Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say onto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh to the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
“Love your enemies” – there is perhaps no more compelling, confounding and revolutionary directive in all of human history than this. How on earth can we love people who hate us, who are doing us harm, perhaps even trying to kill us?
The simple answer is that we cannot. Our natural response to people who hurt us is to become offended and to want to hurt them back. Human beings are not, on their own, capable of loving their enemies: the directive, therefore, in human terms, is absurd. But with God’s help, with his spirit working through us, we can not only love (that is, have compassion for and forgive) our enemies, but we can also pray for them, even, if need be, as they are killing us.
Our job, then, in loving our enemies is to choose to love our enemies. Through our free will choice of choosing to do what Jesus has instructed, God is able to accomplish the love. Without God’s help, it is impossible. In other words, it is God’s love working through us that accomplishes the miracle of loving our enemies, but only if we will that God do it.