“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44-45
The second of the two commandments of Jesus is to love our neighbor as ourselves. The definition of “neighbor” is all-encompassing: it includes our enemies, for Jesus asserts that we should also love them. What was His reasoning? So that we may become the children of the Father in heaven.
How are we to carry out this kind of love? We are to be as children, imitating their Heavenly Father, Whose love is unconditional, and even undeserved: One Who makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.
What kind of love is it? It is an absolutely disinterested, impartial love, one that does not depend upon the qualities of the object of this love, but in spite of it. And this is the kind of love we are to have towards our neighbor, too, and yes, even towards our enemies: those who are arrayed against us, who curse and hate us, those who despitefully use and abuse us.
I like how Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains it: “The whole secret of living this kind of life is that man should be utterly detached. He must be detached from others in the sense that his behavior is not governed by what they do. But still more important, he should be detached from himself, for until a man is detached from himself, he will never be detached from what others will do to that self. ” For as long as a man or woman is living for self, he or she will always be sensitive and reacting to what others will do towards oneself, therefore, “the only way to detach yourself from what others do to you is to detach yourself from yourself.”
Hence our treatment of others must not be dependent on how they treat us, or how they are towards us, but rather, dictated by how we view them and their condition. Instead of reacting to their negative treatment, our actions toward them are to be governed by the principle of love: to understand that their attacks towards us either are due to the basic imperfection and failings of human nature, and/or perhaps influenced by the god of this world; therefore, we are to pray for them.
Detachment from self, dying to self, takes supernatural grace, and the good news is that it is possible for a Christian to carry out this kind of love by living his or her life in Christ. For in Him, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are a new creation who can live in this present evil world at a higher level, belonging to a different kingdom, the kingdom of God.