In Proverbs 25:21, Solomon, who is known as “the wisest man who ever lived,” gives us a front row seat on insight to loving people well and what it truly looks like when we put it to work in our lives. He issues a challenge to believers by saying we are called to not only love our friends, but also our enemies. Most of us inwardly gasp and cringe at the thought and begin to process through why it is hard to love that certain someone. Solomon’s words here are a charge to love by doing, or what I like to call the “boots on the ground” kind of love. In verse 21 he states, “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.” In other words, don’t just say that you love them; put action behind it and love in deed.
Society today seems to be inundated at times with differing opinions and hostile attitudes. In our culture, we see it on display relationally, spiritually, politically… you name it. Challenges to love can present themselves in different ways. There may be people who treat us poorly, who don’t look like us, don’t believe like we do, don’t talk like us, weren’t “raised” like us, and may just flat out treat us poorly. There are many vast differences between Christianity and other religions, but the uniqueness of Christianity stands out boldly in its call to love our enemies. We live in a world that constantly tells us who and how to love, preaching a give and take sort of gospel. Culture commands us to love only those who return it, to only be loyal to our own friends, to only love those who may agree with us or who have been good to us. But the Bible speaks of a different approach and tells us we are to love everyone, even our enemies.
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food! If he is thirsty, give him something to drink!
For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” – Proverbs 25:21-22
Love has an ability to penetrate the heart of a person that no other force has, especially love undeserved and unearned. The Bible gives a metaphor here and says just as metals are melted by heaping coals upon them, so is the heart softened by kindness. Heaping coals of fire upon the head of an enemy is a metaphor referring to the pangs of conscience that an enemy will experience when he receives such undeserved treatment. There’s nothing that can turn the heart of a person like being given love when he hasn’t earned it. This is addressed all throughout the New Testament:
- Matthew 5:46 – “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same?”
- Luke 6:33 – “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.”
- Romans 12:14 – “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.”
“Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.” – Proverbs 24:17
Have you ever been tempted to inwardly rejoice when someone you didn’t like failed or maybe got into some sort of trouble? When you heard of their hardship, maybe you were tempted to think, “That serves him right,” or, “She deserves what she gets.” This is not the way God’s love reacts to situations. Our desire to rejoice in our enemy’s hard times simply does not reflect the nature of God. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians that love rejoices not with iniquity, but rejoices with the truth. Peace and power in your own heart are unlocked when you begin to pray good over your enemies. Instead of rejoicing when they fail, pray that they succeed in what they do. This says two things: that you are making the godly decision to love beyond reason, and “I trust them to you Lord, and believe You are just and faithful to all of us.” How we respond to other people’s troubles and blessings alike says a great deal about our own spiritual maturity.
You may ask, “How do I love my enemies?”
Our only hope for loving our enemy is to be a new creation in Christ. And our only hope for being a new creation in Christ is to be reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” – John Piper
To put it simply, we love because He first loved us. We’ve been given a command to love beyond our logic or reasoning, which means we love with no excuses. So much easier said than done, but I believe with a willing heart and the Spirit’s empowerment, this is part of the higher calling we are able to live out. Loving people this way will sometimes transcend our logic and our understanding. We are called to love not always because of, but sometimes in spite of. After all, this is every one of our stories of redemption. Christ loved us first, even while our hearts were against Him; while we were His enemy. He will never ask something of us He didn’t model Himself, and what greater example do we have to follow here than Jesus? It is truly His kindness that leads us to repentance. Romans 5:10 says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.”
He loved us at our darkest, and we must in turn, love.
Love big, love deep, love well… in word and in deed.
Forever grateful for amazing Grace,
Meshali Mitchell is a photographer, currently residing in Dallas, Texas and available for travel worldwide. What defines her most is her heart for Christ and passion for people. She believes it’s the simple things that make life beautiful…like a good book, a front porch swing and chips and salsa. You can see Meshali’s photography and read more of the heart behind her work on Instagram + Her website : [email protected] /// www.meshalimitchellphoto.com