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How to Love Your Enemies

A helpful example of how to put Jesus’ words into practice.

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I don’t know of any commandment from Jesus that’s harder to follow than His command to love your enemies. How can I do that?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43).

I was recently reading a new book by the columnist Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, with the title Love Your Enemies. It’s not the sort of book I usually go for. I figured it’d be drier than dust and as polemical as an op-ed.

In fact, Brooks offered a very helpful example of how to put Jesus’ words into practice. He described getting an email from someone who read one of his books. “Dear Professor Brooks,” it began, “you are a fraud.”  And then went on for some 5000 words, “criticizing in vitriolic detail every chapter in the book and informing me of my numerous inadequacies as a researcher and person.” 

Brooks was flummoxed for a moment. How to respond? There seemed to be three possibilities: Ignore the guy. Insult him. Or destroy him by picking out his own errors and throwing them back at him.

Brooks, to his credit, chose a fourth way, a way that impressed me. Of course he felt insulted and attacked. But somehow he also had to acknowledge that the man had actually read the whole book. And that made him grateful.

So instead of answering screed for screed he replied—in measured tone—that though the man had hated his book, it took Brooks a lot of time and work to write it, and therefore he appreciated the time and attention the man had given to it. (Note to self: he didn’t grovel or apologize.)

What came back 15 minutes later was an email that totally surprised him. Something very friendly in tone, cordial, even the suggestion that they get together sometime and talk over dinner. From enemy to friend in a matter of minutes. 

How to love your enemies? Respond to them as real people. We can all disagree but we are indeed all God’s children. Loving your enemies means making an effort to understand them.

Why did Jesus ask us to do such a thing? Because it’s an avenue for growth. I have discovered that the people who get me all riled up aren’t necessarily across the world or country. They might be sitting in the next pew.

Who better to start praying for? If I desire to be understood, shouldn’t I try to understand them?

To buy a copy of Rick’s latest book, Prayer Works, click here.

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