Loving and praying for your enemies is hard

Because our girls are now either on their own or in college, my wife and I recently moved from a house we’d be in for over 20 years to another one more right-sized for us. And Murphy was right there beside us with his law that says anything that can go wrong, will.

Robin Schumacher
Courtesy of Robin Schumacher

The previous homeowners of our new place dropped the ball in a big way on their exit that resulted in delays, a huge mess in the home, and large additional expenses for us. They promised they’d reimburse us for it all, but once out of the home – and because all this happened on the fly and outside of any legal contract – they reneged on their promise and left us holding the bag.

And I did what any good Christian would do. I angrily stewed over the whole thing for days.

But then a thought abruptly popped into my head one day as I relived the situation yet another time: you need to pray for them.

And I did what any good Christian would do. I said to myself, “I need to WHAT??” and I refused to do it.

The difference between understanding and accepting

Over the decades that I’ve been a believer, I’ve learned one thing about Christianity. Whether it’s in the area of cerebral-based apologetics or just practical living, Christianity’s answers aren't hard to find; instead, they are sometimes hard to accept.

Loving and praying for your enemies is one of those things that’s hard to accept. Finding commands about loving/praying for your enemies are easy to find.

Contrary to what some think, the concept of loving/praying for enemies is nowhere explicitly commanded in the Old Testament. Loving your neighbor as yourself certainly is (Lev. 19:18) and some feel that it covers the base of loving your enemies. You’ll also find passages on helping enemies like, “If you encounter your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you must return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall not leave it helpless for its owner; you must arrange the load with him” (Ex. 23:4-5). There’s also an implicit love-your-enemies verse in Proverbs that’s repeated in the New Testament: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov. 25:1-2).

But the idea of loving/praying for enemies pokes its head out explicitly the first time in Christ’s sermon on the mount: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:44-45).

Paul says something along the same lines in Romans: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse….Never repay evil for evil to anyone….If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people….Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:14-21).

Finding and reading these verses is easy. Accepting and carrying them out is another matter.

Maybe you’ve got a boss who is the kind of guy that, when he dies, the only reason anyone will go to his funeral is to make sure he’s really dead. Or you have family members whose venom that’s constantly directed towards you makes that of a black mamba seem like Kool-Aid.

And staring you in the face are the words of God that say: “when we are verbally abused, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we reply as friends” (1 Cor. 4:12-13).

This is one of those places where Christianity’s rubber meets the road.

And so?

It’s been two weeks since my move fiasco. Yep, two full weeks. And while making my onion-cheese omelette for breakfast this morning, I got another poke in the side to pray for those who owned our home before us.

And I did.

Now, make no mistake, it was along the lines of the parable Jesus told about two sons responding to their father’s request: “A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ But he replied, ‘I do not want to.’ Yet afterward he regretted it and went” (Matt. 21:28-29).

But, funny thing, right afterwards I felt that fury I had over being wronged finally start to slowly (and I mean slowly) drain from my body. And I recalled that I serve a sovereign God who’s in charge of every atom in the universe and everything that comes my way, even things like being cheated.

There’s no doubt about it – loving and praying for your enemies is hard. But it’s one more thing that separates us from the rest of the world and that’s a good thing.

We see that in a contrast between the final words that come from the leaders of the world’s two largest religions. The last words of Muhammad were: "O Lord, perish the Jews and Christians. They made churches of the graves of their prophets. There shall be no two faiths in Arabia" (Hadith Malik 511:1588).

And the last words of Jesus where His enemies were concerned?

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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