You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for this? Even tax collectors love their friends. If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about this? Don’t even unbelievers do that? But you must always act like your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:43–48, CEV)
When you think of the word enemy, what images come to mind? Whose face do you see? Think of the circumstances that led to your present feelings about that person. Consider the relationship you have with the person today. And then compare your findings with Jesus’ words in the first book of the New Testament.
Jesus holds his followers to a different standard. You say you love the people who love you? So what? The worst people you know love their friends too. If you say you love your enemies, though—and prove it with the way you treat them—you’ve set yourself apart. And that’s exactly what Jesus wants his followers to do. To love your enemies is to work toward the best possible relationship with them and to learn to live at peace with them. The first step in that process is to stop any ongoing escalation of anger. If the rift or circumstances that soured your relationship are fresh, address them in a positive way. Own up to your culpability in the matter, and give the other person a chance to do the same.