How to Love Your Enemy
“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:44 NLT
There it is. The most challenging verse in the Bible (in my opinion.)
What does loving your enemy look like? A better question… what can an enemy look like?
Disclaimer: There are many types of enemies. There are enemies who may have hurt you in very serious, deep ways. Today, I want to talk about temporary enemies. The relationships that have been tarnished by a negative occurrence, but not destroyed.
Have you ever gotten in a fight with a friend? Have you been hurt by something a parent has said to you? Has someone else been given an opportunity you wanted? On the other side of those scenarios, and in countless other circumstances, there is another person who has become your temporary enemy.
I’m sure the answer is yes to most, if not all, of those questions. If not… please share your secrets because I have surely endured my fair share of those frustrations.
Here’s a POSH way to love your enemies well:
Pray first. Own it. Speak openly. Hang out.
(I love a good acronym, you guys.)
1. Pray first.
“Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6
Always, always, always pray first. I will admit, I usually don’t do this. My immediate reaction is to pick up my phone and text someone saying, “oh my gosh guess what just happened!!!” Even if I do take the moment to pray, it usually involves complaints and a lengthy pity party informing God that life is so unfair. Push down the gut reaction to be flooded with emotion and spew anger towards a worldly third party or towards God. Instead, take a moment and pray something like…
I am so hurt in this moment. I ask that you give me peace, so I can sort through how I’m feeling. Come walk with me through this pain, and I will do my best to be open to your voice. Guide my words and actions so that I can be fair to myself and this moment’s enemy. Give them joy and rest and success today.
2. Own it.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23
Own it. Accept the fact that this person hurt you. Take away the drama and emotion and simply tell yourself that someone violated your trust, spoke unkindly, stabbed you in the back, whatever it is, and accept the situation. I can almost guarantee there has been a time you’ve hurt someone. Doesn’t it feel good when your wrongdoing isn’t attributed to your character? One of the biggest roadblocks I’ve encountered when working through conflict is not giving the person on the other side enough grace. I’ll spend time trying to put thoughts in the other person’s head. I’ll think, “Well they knew I had a hard week, so hurting me when I was already under stress was intentional.” Sometimes, that one hurt can overshadow everything else I know about a person. Those thoughts are toxic. Don’t jump to conclusions; accept the facts. That’s step 2.
3. Speak openly.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 NIV
Whenever I’m going through a rough patch with someone I have the horrible tendency to not tell them how I feel. I could be harboring so many negative emotions about a person and never let them know. It’s undeniably terrifying to say, “I’m upset with you because…” That is such an important step in truly loving a person. Take the time to give them a chance to repair the damage. Speak to them truthfully about how you’re feeling in a way that honors and respects them. Don’t yell or scold, just share what’s on your heart.
4. Hang out.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
Once you’ve worked out the conflict, spend time together. Don’t give up meeting together! Ruminating on past hurts will get you nowhere. Jump back into the relationship and let time and fellowship melt away any nasty leftover negativity. Animosity can so quickly deteriorate a relationship and turn a temporary enemy to a permanent one. I always have so much anxiety seeing someone after we’ve had a conflict. I end up building up the issue we have already sorted out, and it causes the relationship to suffer more. God calls us to live in relationship, and truly loving your enemy means spending time with them. Once new memories are made, all of that nastiness seems so far in the past.
Pray first. Own it. Speak openly. Hang out.
If we can love our enemies well, we will be one step closer to walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
Christina Graffagna // @cgraffagna
Hi! I’m Christina, and I’m currently 22 years old living in Chicago. I grew up right outside of Chicago, but recently graduated from the University of Alabama (Roll Tide), where I’ve been for the past four years. I am undeniably ill-equipped to be back in the snow after experiencing southern winters! While attempting not to turn into a popsicle, I’ll be working on my master’s degree in community counseling at Loyola University. My current plan is to become a Licensed Professional Counselor and work with adolescents in private therapy. I love connecting with people, learning their stories, and using the knowledge I have about human behavior coupled with the knowledge I have of Scripture to advise others and love them well.