Love Your Enemies: What it Really Means

By | June 21, 2020

[June 21, 2020]  I grew up in a very religious household, weekly attending church services, being part of prayer groups, and associating closely with other church members.  It was a time to learn and to build character; we learned to be a ‘good’ person.  Love your enemies is one of the often-quoted texts of the Bible.  But I didn’t learn what it meant.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-5:45

I’ve read a lot about this quote from the Bible and listened to religious lectures on it.  How could I justify having a military career where destroying (read that as killing) our enemies remains our central mission?  I had to come to grips with my confusion over the quote of Jesus and my job.

Still, I found that a simple but incomplete understanding of ‘love your enemies’ is all too common.  This was the root of my confusion and dissonance that had built within me.  The depth and richness of understanding are not there.  What does it mean?  Can it mean more than what it says literally?

I believe that it means several things:

  1. In its purest form, it means never to gloat when your enemy falls, have humility, be merciful, see your limitations, and be grateful for your good status in life. Hate only destroys.
  2. Learn from the success of our enemies. Incorporate their successes into your positions and ways of getting things accomplished.
  3. Listen to the criticisms of our enemies so that we can glean from their opposition whatever fragments of wisdom we might incorporate to our betterment.
  4. Adopt as our ambition, the creation of a world in which those who work against us see the light and wake up and succeed. In this way, we can be better at what we can do to succeed, so our enemies can succeed.

As soldiers, we were all taught the popular quote from the famous Chinese General Sun Tzu:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

This is a story that should be pursued with vigor, and wisdom will the result.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

17 thoughts on “Love Your Enemies: What it Really Means

  1. Christian Ajaegbu

    It is a very difficult task if not humanly impossible.
    We normally say stop them before they stop you, even if it death. It acceptable in war either spiritual or physical.
    We indeed need double dose of grace of God.
    O God deliver us all.

    Reply
  2. Yusaf from Texas

    One of your best articles, Gen. Satterfield. Keep ’em coming our way. 👍

    Reply
  3. Fred Weber

    How is of the utmost importance. We aren’t able to love our enemies without the help of God. Hating an enemy is what comes natural. We need supernatural help. If we try and love our enemies apart from the help of God it will not be true love.

    Reply
    1. Wilson Cox

      The conclusion Jesus brings it to is for us to be like our Heavenly Father who is perfect and merciful. That word perfect can make us cringe due to our humanity. Only God is perfect. But the word perfect in the original Greek means complete. It comes from a primary word meaning to set out for a definite point or goal. Jesus is saying for us to make it our goal to love like our Heavenly Father loves.

      Reply
    2. Tony B. Custer

      But if I’m dealing with humans, I can have hope. Hope that messages of love and acceptance and peace can be heard. Hope that God can redeem even the worst of sinners. Hope that God can redeem my deep, dark sins, too.

      Reply
      1. Kenny Foster

        Right. When Jesus said we are to love our enemies, He was creating a new standard for relationships. He proclaimed to the crowds listening to His Sermon on the Mount.

        Reply
  4. Len Jakosky

    Good to see everyone in today’s forum making comments on this important saying by Jesus. It has been oft misinterpreted and misused. Thanks to this leadership blog for helping set the record straight.

    Reply
  5. Nick Lighthouse

    Happy FATHER’S DAY to all those dads out there who raised their kids. Keep up the great works you guys are doing to help our world by raising good kids.

    Reply
    1. Dennis Mathes

      😊 Yes and thx Nick. The best way we can help our world is to, ourselves, be good folks. Trying to right the world doesn’t always work out the way we wish.

      Reply
  6. Janna Faulkner

    Excellent post this morning. Thank you, Gen Satterfield for starting out my day with one of the most important things Jesus said to us. Love your enemies is one of the most profound things ever said, yet we are constantly debating what Jesus meant. Your article hits the nail on the head. It shows that we can learn even more, if we just set our minds to it.

    Reply
    1. Doc Blackshear

      Yes Janna and there is more in the Bible that the average person can even imagine. There are meta-stories (what Dr. Peterson says are those stories of life that have the most meaning) that can teach us more about ourselves.

      Reply
    2. Scotty Bush

      Good comment, Janna. Yes, the Bible and other such old testaments to humanness can benefit us all. Why this is not taught in school is obvious — too many liberals who hate religion.

      Reply
      1. Eric Coda

        “Liberals”??? I think you mean Marxists. That is really what they are. Gen. Satterfield prefers, I think, to refer to them as adopting Socialist ideology.

        Reply
    3. Harry B. Donner

      …. and we should never ever forget these words and what it really means.

      Reply
  7. Army Captain

    The Bible can teach us much but most of us need to be taught the real meaning behind the words.

    Reply
    1. JT Patterson

      Thanks Army Captain, good to see you on this early morning. Thanks for your service to our nation and helping protect the one true republic from domination by dictators and other evils.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.