Anger, Faith, Forgiveness, Grace

Love Your Enemies

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

Sometimes following God just…sucks.

Have you ever felt that way? I have a group of people rising up against me, making my life very difficult right now. I want so badly to hold onto anger and bitterness. I want to shout my innocence to the world. I want to unleash every ounce of pent up anger.

And yet I hear the gentle voice of God say, “Love. Love your enemies. Love them well. Do it my way.”

Sometimes I simply don’t want to do it His way.

When I started writing, I quickly learned that criticism went hand-in-hand with being in the public eye. Because I write so often on divorce, I frequently have those who are holier than me who like to make sure I know I am a false teacher, purporting a doctrine that will destroy me and those to whom I write. I frequently have to remind myself that these people are clinging to a human interpretation of scripture…which means a fallible interpretation. Truth be told, none of us knows the exact interpretation this side of heaven. We simply have to take the Bible, study it carefully, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and use the greater context of scripture to determine the interpretation.

And the greater context of scripture is that of a loving, gracious God who forgives every sin, who sets captives free, who came to give us abundant life.

Yes, God hates sin. He hates divorce. He also hates greed. He hates arrogance. He hates lust. He hates every sexual sin. He hates unforgiveness. He hates gluttony. And He hates pride.

Why does He hate these things so much? Because they separate us from Him, a holy God who cannot look on sin. Because they cause so much devastation and destruction to His children, and His Father heart breaks when we hurt because of our own stupidity.

But in His grace, He looks down and scoops us up into His arms and restores us. Gives us new life. Helps us see that His way is the best way. He takes even our most horrible, miserable failures and uses them to mold us into His image. He takes our messes and gives us a ministry.

And I am so thankful for His grace.

But the enemies I fight today are not strangers who are accusing me of being a false teacher. They aren’t names lurking behind a computer screen, searching the internet for people like me proclaiming a different interpretation of scripture.

They are people I know. People I love. People I gave so much of my life to.

People who now believe lies about me.

I’ve spent many hours crying over the bitter attacks, struggling to understand why they would turn against me. My heart breaks over the hatred, the venomous attacks. I’m so tired and weary from the battle.

And I want to lash out.

I want to return evil for evil. I want to shout my innocence from the mountaintop. I want to fiercely defend my reputation, my good name.

Yet I look at the greater context of scripture to realize my responsibility is to love. To love those who seek to harm me. To love those who lash out at me. To love those I’d rather hate right now.

I seek to look beyond the words and actions and see the reasons behhind their actions. Yes, I know they are fighting their own battles. I know they have been told lies about me. I know they are hurting in their own right.

And I know that their words and actions flow from the anger and bitterness pent up inside their own hearts.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45

I don’t want to have the ugliness and bitterness corrupt my heart. I don’t want my actions and words to flow from an ugly heart.

I want my life to be characterized by the grace of God, by His unconditional love. I want my life to be a testimony of the goodness of my Father who has poured out His mercy upon me. I want my life to be an example of a life transformed by the God of the universe.

The God who sent His son to earth to die for my sins so I could receive His forgiveness.

The God who is faithful to me even when I am faithless.

The God who came and lived a perfect life for me to imitate.

The God who showed His love for me even while I was lost in my own sin.

As much as I sometimes want to handle situations such as these in my own way, ultimately I know His way is best. Therefore, I will strive to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me…even when I don’t want to.

Lord Jesus, my flesh wants nothing more than to lash out at those who hate me, those who want to destroy me. But I pray your blessings over them. I pray today that you, Lord, will bless my enemies and protect them.  May you, Lord, smile on them and be gracious to them. May you, Lord, show them your favor and give them your peace. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

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36 thoughts on “Love Your Enemies”

  1. Good word, Sister. But remember it is not them. It is the enemy using their flesh and thier sins to come at you. Pray for them. Pray Gods love and blessings and healing on them, that nothing but good will come to them. And leave them in His hands. And He will deal with the enemy and with them! I had a similar situation and praying blessings and Gods love on our persecutors works!

      1. Dena,
        Thank you This has been happening to my adult daughter with in the church .

        She shared some very personal things in a group who later use what she shared against her husband preventing him of getting a position in the church. I was hurt that some of the people my husband and I were very close to . I as the mom wanted to lash out at them for hurting my daughter. It even caused some very hurtful words spoken between myself and son in law .God has been dealing with me on forgiveness . When I read the words that you wrote. I heard God speaking to me through you . I am working on forgiveness for all those people that hurt my family. I am trusting God to deal with them. I have realized also I have to step out of the way and let go of the anger and bitterness so God can show me his way of forgiveness.
        I am Thankful for you and your family . Please continue to write your feelings down because you don’t realize how many people you are touching and turning situations around for God’s Glory .

      2. Thank you, Bev. I am so sorry for the pain you all are experiencing. God’s sheep..stink! We all do. We hurt others. We gossip. We let ourselves get in the way. And then we get angry and bitter. As much pain as it has caused me, I refuse to let the actions of these people control me. That’s what the enemy wants…for us to be paralyzed by our own pain and bitterness. If we can choose God’s path, it leads to freedom. Let’s choose the harder path together.

  2. Religious people are the worst to deal with as they judge from their own perspective and not Gods. Jesus had trouble with religious people and they are the jealous ones that hung him on the cross but he still turned it into the best thing that ever happened for man kind 🙏🏻

    1. God always talked about the Pharisees being blind, and today’s Pharisees are still blind to their own pride and arrogance, to their own faults. Yes, He always turns it to good.

  3. I love this article. I too am dealing with unforgiveness in my heart towards family members and an ex-husband however through a wonderful book called, “Explaining the Importance of Forgiveness” by John Arnott it has been such an amazing read! I did not realize we can forgive however still hold judgement towards that person….I always wondered why when I forgave the pain and bitterness was still there….this is a must read book! Thank you for praying for these people in your life and for understanding that, “they do not know what they do.”

    1. I will add it to my reading list! Yes, it’s taken me a long time to reach a place of peace and true forgiveness, but the peace is unbelievable! Praying God gives you the ability to reach that place, too!

  4. Great sharing. Love will win. But it is hard. Hang in there sister. I know the pain of divorce as well. If you have the time this TEDtalk is a good one. My prayer is that you feel the warmth, the embrace of God as he reaches down and comforts you in this season and that you in silence can hear his voice- you are loved, you are cherished, you are mine , I love you.
    Peace and grace

    A heart touching story-proof that love wins, 10 minutes long. A timely message

  5. Of course it’s the ones in God’s family that shoot. It won’t be the non believer because they don’t care, but on the other hand I found more of my non believer friends caring for my wellbeing and didn’t want to see me hurting. I think Christians get scared if they don’t get those verses out about God hating divorce. You said it well regarding other ‘missed marks’. Just keep on keeping on. We can let God be the judge of all things and we can focus on Scriptues like 1 John 2:9-11.
    Love, grace and joy to you sister!

    1. Yes, He is the judge and I am convinced He is fighting this battle. Slowly, day by day, I am releasing it to Him and letting Him fight for me. And His peace which surpasses all understanding is beginning to guard my heart and mind. He is good…always.

  6. Dena, I would like to share a poem that I found written in a devotional book written by L.B.Cowan entitled; Streams In The Desert. I recommend you buy that book if you ever get a chance.

    Just where you stand in the conflict, There is your place.
    Just where you think you are useless, Hide not your face.
    God placed you there for a purpose, Whate’er it be;
    Think He has chosen you for it; Work loyally.
    Put on your armor! Be careful at toil or rest!
    Whate’er it be, never doubting God’s way is best.
    Out in the fight or on lookout, Stand firm and true;
    This is the work that your Master
    Gives you to do.
    God Bless and never give up.
    Your sister in Christ, Pat

  7. Yes there are times I’ve even wished I could get a “surrogate sinner” to carry out my aggressions. Then…I take that thought captive and the many others that whirl through due to a
    hurting mind/heart/ego, etc. We have to pray continuously for sure. You’ll make it through this time and will soon be sharing about healing, restoration and forgiveness among these. God will honor the prayers. Thank you for always sharing from the depths.

  8. I ache for your hurt, but I am grateful that you have chosen to allow God to show you a better way – His way. I am also thankful that God introduced me to your ministry as this point in my life. I feel I am constantly justifying what I am doing. He has helped me, in part, by your writing that it is HIS opinion alone that matters; and when I get caught up in the mess of trying to please everyone, I am the one that breaks when they don’t bend. It is my pride of wanting everyone to see me as correctly interpreting the Scriptures that breaks me – not them. It doesn’t cause them to lose sleep, it’s all my choice. Thank you for helping me see that as God’s daughter, I need to put Him first and He’ll care for everything and everyone else. I appreciate you.

    1. Your words are so true! We live for an audience of the One, and it is His opinion alone that matters! When we live to please others, we always get ourselves into trouble. Beautiful words!

  9. Truth is in your heart, thank you for sharing with us. I am always encouraged by your intimate devotion to our Lord and Savior. Blessings, peace and strength is my prayer for you.

  10. Dena – It’s such a sadness when these things happen. I believe what you have done is excite envy and jealousy, even if you’re deriders don’t understand it themselves, because of the spiritual favor you have received from God. It is a by-product of that special anointing that comes with being in line with His Will for the express purposes He created you to accomplish. I also am a writer and can ‘read between the lines’ and recognize sincerity when I see it – I see your heart. I would hazard to guess that you recognize a substantial favor from God and people over-all, especially when you are involved in your area of authority and influence.
    Be true to Him, be true to who you were created to be in Him and know that you are greatly beloved of God. Blessings on you and your family.

    Lee

    1. Thank you, Lee. Yes, I know there’s a sense of jealousy and frustration on their behalf. It’s heart-breaking to see the pain they are living in and to see the deception they live with. One day, the truth will come to light. It may not be on this side of heaven, but I will be vindicated. Until then, I will continue to do my best to love in spite of the hate.

  11. Thank you so much for this message. My dear sweet husband of 12-years decided he did not love me anymore last year, moved out, then contacted his high school girlfriend from 40 years ago and they are now living together. The feeling of Abandonment and bitterness overwhelmed me for a Time. I feel that I went through the fire as well and God has brought me out on the other side with peace in my soul. It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced. But I thank him for his love, for sending friends to support me, and for always being with me. Thank you dear sister.

    1. It is an incredibly difficult journey, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything! I am thankful you have experienced the love of God and the love of friends and family. There’s no better place than living in the peace of the Savior!

  12. Are You Waiting on the Edge of the Promised Land? My devotion that I read from crosswalk this morning. Is a long story, but a Good story for me because lately I have been very thirsty to hear from God and he has been speaking A LOT throught my devotion and just this morning he lead me through you. He used two of your devotions to speak to me “love your enemies” – “Are u waiting….promise land” . Thank you for sharing your love for God and for how we follow the bible – is God words and not ours!. Dena, I was a pastor’s wife and we have 3 great children together, that I am so blessed! My marriage unfortunately didn’t survived after few affairs he had and working on our marriage was’t working very well since he allowed a third party in our marriage (ex-friend of us) in. However, all the pain, embarrassiment, ashamed has been past and God has shown to me his faithfullness, love and He has provided to me and my children all that we need . I have experienced and see his hands on my past, present and I know that he has more in store! Even though sometimes I get worried, discouraged, God sends his angels, like you, to deliver his word to me. God is faithful, his loves is real and he will deliver his promises! Dena, prayers for many buckets of blessings overflow you. God blessings!

    1. Thank you for sharing! I am overwhelmed at the number of pastor’s wives who write me, telling me the same painful story. But, the pain is never the end of the story! It’s always a story of God’s faithfulness, of meeting us in our pain and showing us the depths of His love for us. I’m so sorry you are walking this journey, but I am so blessed to know you have found a new depth of love for the Savior!

    1. Yes, I definitely did! Initially, all of my anger was directed at the other woman because it was much easier to hate her than it was to hate the one I had pledged my life to. I have spent many, many hours praying God would give me eyes to see my ex-husband as He does–through eyes of compassion. It’s a long, hard journey, but it is worth it.

  13. How heartbreaking to hear family/friends have turned against you. I pray Dena that your faith will stay strong and that He will bring alongside you those that will support and love you. God bless you and your children. Your words are encouraging to me.

  14. Hello Dena,
    I love this passage out of Ephesians in the Mirror Bible. 6:12 People are not the enemy, (whether they be husbands, wives, children, or parents, slaves, or bosses. They might host hostile, law inspired thought patterns through their unbelief or ignorance but) to target one another is to engage in the wrong combat. We represent the authority of the victory of Christ in the spiritual realm. We are positioned there (in Christ); we 1target the mind games and 2structures of darkness, religious thought patterns, governing and conditioning human behavior.

    I am sorry people have come against you. Being Betrayed always cuts the deepest. Most of us on that hat and t-shirt I watch the movie Once by the same people who did Facing the Giants. It is called “flywheel” in that movie it taught me that many times I have to let God be my Defender and get out of his way and that’s very hard because when we are betrayed we feel like people owe us for what they did.
    Thank you for your openness and your transparency

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