As stories make their way to us from the persecuted church, we hear about Christians who, though beaten, harassed, and jailed, respond with unimaginable grace and dignity. These saints have learned to apply Christ's command to "love your enemies," even in the harshest of circumstances.
We may never face a beating for our faith, but we will run across people who hate and mistreat us. The easy and natural response is to dislike them in return, but harboring ill will chokes our witness with resentment. Instead, Jesus instructs us to love our adversaries and to treat them well. The Greek word is agape-it means "unconditional love," which is not a soft feeling based on the attractive nature or appearance of the other person. Agape forms through an act of our will. When we choose to love, our emotions follow the decision of our mind.
A right response to an enemy will prove beneficial to him. God has a redemptive plan in mind for his life, and we have an opportunity to help show him the way to the Lord. A bitter or angry response on our part will serve only to feed our adversary's desire to cause harm.
The natural urge to return one wrong for another can be subdued only through prayer, the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. Instead of begging the Father to defeat our enemy, we can ask Him for the opportunity to express genuine Christlike love in the face of opposition. That's the kind of prayer He delights to answer. And when we are privileged to meet the need of someone who despises us, we might just see an amazing change in his life.