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Christians: What does it mean to "love your enemy?"


I was not brought up as a Christian, so I ask what it means to you.

How should it be practiced toward the Boston Marathon Bombers?

For those of us here who are so deep into hatred and fear and disgust and remorse and depression and anger over our Government, what does this mean? And equally important, how can we put it into practice?

Thank you.

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Easy Answer

The Golden Rule.
I would want my socially valued rights. Well, constitutionally "guaranteed" rights.

Ron brought the Liberty movement together, Rand is expanding the crap out of it! :)

Not a simple question

Because first you must ask what love is and the Bible puts it this way 1Co 13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
1Co 13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
1Co 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
1Co 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
1Co 13:8 Charity never faileth:

Personally last year I spent months studying just this passage and studied it with the slant on what the Bible has to say about dating, and I have about 16 pages on microsoft word about what that means in just the context of finding a spouse.
The one thing I will say is that the phrase Charity sufferth long, and is kind; is the only one that ends in a semicolon in this passage so that indicates that those two phrases are dependent on one another. So we are to be kind even when we suffer. Difficult.

If you want a very long answer to that question and you have a dollar read this http://www.amazon.com/Tortured-Christ-Richard-Wurmbrand/dp/0...

A pastor once said:

"We thank you for waking our enemies this day Father, for they are your children as we are."

Truthfully we should ask the question, "what is love?"

I see love as that point you are willing to risk your life for someone, when a man is willing to protect a woman, share his food with her, and take care of her, is when he loves her. Many would naturally do the same for family. Would you do this for your enemy?

Phxarcher87's picture

It's not the easiest thing to do but....


I also recommend watching the movie Tres Misérables :)

James Madison

Sometimes your enemies are

Sometimes your enemies are the only ones willing to tell you the truth about yourself. Your friends don't want to risk losing the relationship.

Really, I got a down vote for

Really, I got a down vote for that?

Michael Nystrom's picture

What does it mean? For the answer, check this book

The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership

I discussed it a little in this post The Spiritual r3VOLution Inspired by Ron Paul

How can you love an ax murderer, after all? It was in The Servant that I found the distinction of what this means. The Greeks had five words for love: eros, erotic love; storgé, love for family members; philos, brotherly / reciprocal love and finally, agapé – an unconditional love rooted in behavior towards others without regard to their due. In other words, do unto others as they would have them do unto you, regardless of how you feel about them personally.

What a blunt instrument the English language is, having only one word to cover so many distinct concepts!

When Jesus speaks of ‘love’ in the New Testament, he speaks of agapé, the love of behavior and choice, not of feeling. In this sense, to love your neighbor or your enemy (agapé) means to show them the same patience, kindness, humility, respect, selflessness, forgiveness, and honesty – regardless of whether you agree with them or not. Just as Dr. Paul does. He treats everyone – friends and opponents alike – with the same patience, kindness, humility, respect, forgiveness and honesty that constitute agapé love.

That is just a taste of what you'll find in the book, which I'm rereading now.

Thank you for reading.

Phxarcher87's picture

When you have time.


James Madison

Interesting story in John 21

In case you haven't heard it, I will paraphrase.

Peter had just recently denied knowing the Messiah 3 times.

"Simon, do you love me more than these?"(agape)
"Yea Lord, you know that I love you"(philos)
"Simon, do you love me?"(agape)
"Yea Lord, you know that I love you."(philos)
"Simon, do you love me?"(philos)
"Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you."(philos)


This has to be the hardest to deal with. What I do, is kill them with kindness. I look the other way, I kindly tell them I disappointed. I also pray for them. Seriously, I had enemies that eventually turned out to be good friends of mine. I had enemies who eventually gave up being my enemy. Some times it is hard and you start to feel the hate. Once I do, I start to think of ways of squashing the problem. But yes, loving your enemy is still the hardest task to deal with.

What it means to me

Recognize that everyone is a human being with unique experiences and a unique, irreplaceable spirit. Every single person, no matter how depraved or foolish or apparently useless, is a child of God, who is loved by their Father in Heaven.

If I loved my enemies, knowing that they are children of God, I would feel very, very sad for them. These precious children of God are choosing to do things that degrade themselves, that are not worthy of themselves. I feel very sad when I know that these precious people are hurting themselves by hurting others. I would want them to make things right and change for the better, while respecting their agency to choose for themselves.

If I loved my enemy, I would forgive them for hurting me, even if they don't apologize or change their ways. Forgiveness would mean I not hate them, but hope that they change. It means I would not retaliate and try to hurt them back.

It also means trying to extend friendship and love to them. Giving cookies to the neighbor who gossips about you just because you know they had a hard day. It's amazing how powerful loving your enemies is: it changes hearts when they feel loved and understood.

"Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice." -- Thomas Paine

If you live in God's love

there are no enemies.

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
James Madison

nice fluffy sentiment

but sadly, non-scriptural!

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."-- Albert Einstein

Unfortunately, simply being

Unfortunately, simply being raised in a so-called Christian country, or even a Christian home, doesn't automatically mean you know what Christian love is.

What does it mean to "love yourself"? Answer that first and then apply the same to "loving your neighbor as yourself", and then to "loving your enemy".

That order is an easier progression than jumping all the way up to "loving your enemy" (who just killed 4 random people by setting off a bomb on a crowded city street). First understand "loving yourself" and apply that to "loving your neighbor".

Start with seeing how you love yourself.

You automatically love yourself, it's inherent in our nature, so just look at how you naturally think about yourself to understand this.

Remember that its in your own mind and heart is where you love yourself, not necessarily in what you say to others, so take that in mind when thinking about this. In your own mind do you correct yourself, want yourself to learn, to improve yourself in whatever way? In your own mind you don't just reflexively agree with whatever you do as "always right" or even "always wrong", but you evaluate yourself through some sort of standard, regardless of what it is.

You don't simply have a warm, fuzzy feeling about how wonderful you are, that's something that you have to work yourself up to, it isn't an automatic thought. Because of this natural tendency, thinking too badly of yourself in your own mind is a common emotional/mental problem, while the opposite is unheard of.

Does loving yourself mean that you give yourself whatever you want at any given moment and do whatever it takes to avoid the inherent natural consequences of your indulgences? Does loving yourself mean that you think you should be let out of responsibility for hurting other people? Wanting to be allowed to make as many mistakes without ever being told about them or ever be corrected by anyone? Is it loving to want anyone (including yourself) to live as if there is no objective reality?

Love your neighbor in the same way; not merely having a warm, fuzzy, uninformed thought that they're "perfect and should never change", but wanting them to be able to improve themselves by exposure to reality. Kindly and graciously revealing what they may not see at the moment, instead of being mindlessly subservient or unequivocally oppositional to them personally.

"Do unto others what you want them to do unto you" is another angle of viewing the same thing as "love your neighbor as yourself", and helps clarify it. Like giving you a 3 dimensional view by having cameras at 2 different angles.

I realize that I've been a jerk to some people with my comments in the recent weeks so I'm not a great example to anyone. I need people to point out the flaws in my attitude as much as anyone does. The anonymity we have on the internet makes it easy to be rude and avoid the consequences.

Since I run for public office now and then and am involved in many public organizations (like a lot of us here), I use a nickname on DP because I thought it was better to be able to associate freely without having my simple association with this website be used against me by political opponents. But maybe the temptation for me to be rude without consequences outweighs the benefit of avoiding accusations of "guilt by association". When I write, I'll assume that people can find out who I am, then I might be more able to resist the temptation to be rude. Or maybe I can come right out and identify myself by name. I'll think about it.

Two things stick out after 18 years of religious upbringing...

The golden rule - do unto others, and 'turn the other cheek'.

Mix them together and I think you come up with the platinum rule:

Loving our enemies, I think, is to love them as we love ourselves. We want what we want for ourselves, and we want those whom we love to get whatever they want. If they want to hurt you then turn the other cheek to them and let them hurt you as Jesus said.

In prison Gandhi found out someone was put inside to kill him so he presented himself saying "here I am." Apparently the assassin was so freaked out by this that he ran away.

(but what about self defense and guns and all that stuff?)

I don't know. Religion and ethics and philosophy is hard.

Chris Indeedski!

Daily Paul cured my abibliophobia.

This guy has it worked out.

A man that has walked the path of forgiveness.

The power of love is greater than enmity

but loving your enemy does not mean to welcome victimization, exploitation, nor plunder. Rather it means to extend mercy, kindness, and generosity of our free will, by faith in God who is merciful, kind and gracious to us, even when we were enemies of Him. When Jesus said, "whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also"; consider the fact that most people are right-handed. When standing face to face, that would mean a back-handed, or insulting blow, not one that would usually knock you down or out.

A less well known quote from Jesus says, "But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up." While the application was to another end, the truth is still there that defense of property from the intentions of the thief should be met with force sufficient to protect from plunder; even deadly force, to not suffer from theft within his home, because it may cost "the goodman" his life if the thief would dare cross his threshold.

Loving your enemies, in the context of the sermon on the mount, was addressed to his Jewish disciples to encourage them to extend grace in the face of even strong disfavor; but NOT to define a domestic, or even a foreign policy, towards those who mean to harm our life, liberty, or property; as I read and understand it.

Luke 6:35-36 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. - Frederick Douglass

Michael... Check these out:


http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Thomas+Merton+and+the+Da... (Pay attention close to the 3 min. mark and you might be better able to understand the conflicting attitudes in Christianity seen in the comments on this and other threads.)

“It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.”
―Emmet Fox

Nonna, I don't know why this has been down-voted

I find nothing but good in the references you've posted.

The answer lies in around the 3 minute mark

of the video I linked to. Just read the more recent comments on this thread and you will understand the downvote(s). What started out as an intelligent discussion about the philosphies (yes, in the plural) of religion, has turned into a revival meeting, where everyone must hold the exact same belief in the exact same way or go straight to hell.

Thank you ronpaul1fan, for mentioning the good and trying to bring the discussion back to where it was intended to be. But, watch what happens now! (Hope I'm wrong about that last sentence and just wish there could be at least one thread where we can have an open and free discussion on this topic.)

“It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.”
―Emmet Fox

Please explain how these

Please explain how these links relate to the OP. He asks Christians a question about what it means to love your enemy, but your links are about a Christian (Merton) visiting a Buddhist (the Dalai Lama) who was never his enemy.

Also, this thread didn't "start out as a discussion about (plural) philosophies of religion", the OP asked a specific question, addressing it specifically to Christians.

The OP chose to link to a Hindu exhibiting

Christian values. That opened up the discussion to philosophies of religion. The Op, not being a Christian himself, would likely be open to hearing about Christianity from a Buddhist perspective, as well as seeing how the two philosophies go together.

If you read the earlier comments, you will see that I did "participate in the discussion" with a lengthy comment. The dialogue progressed from there. Not everything is easily explained, as you pointed out in your other comment, which I did bump, btw. Christian values are not necessarily so far away from the values of other faiths.

In any event, it was clear to me that the OP asking for information and I provided some food for thought, rather than quoting chaper and verse, which wouldn't help anyone not familiar with the practice of Christianity to understand anything other than the "this is how it is or you go to hell" attitude held by some (certainly not all nor by the majority of) Christians who have posted here. Some food is good for some and not for others. Whatever works well on someone's path, is what that person should pursue, no? We each have our own roads to travel to find that which we seek.

“It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.”
―Emmet Fox

Sorry that I wrote my

Sorry that I wrote my original reply to you before I searched the rest of the thread for your earlier comment. That was when I edited to delete me asking you to write about your thoughts.

Your earlier post says you are Roman Catholic, so now I understand why you would post links with Thomas Merton. I am not Catholic but have many close Catholic friends and was part of the Catholic student group for most of my college years. I was raised Pentecostal, and have attended mostly Baptist or independent charismatic churches as an adult, and have close friends who are Eastern Orthodox and mainline Protestant, too.

I understand why comments heavily relying on extensive bible quotes or simplistic cliches may be much more difficult for many people to relate to or even understand, if you can even get past the "language barrier". That's why I like to write things out logically, though I'm a bit too wordy.

But I also think that, with all the variety of Christian beliefs, practices, traditions, denominations, churches, languages, tastes, styles and iterations of meeting formats (and lack of formats) that are widely available in our country isn't there enough variety to find something for every person and need within Christianity? How can someone get any kind of answers outside of Christianity for some of the most basic human questions and still consider themselves any kind of Christian?

The answer to your question is simple.

There come times in a life when one must go outside of whatever denomination or no demonination of Christianity to experience the awesomeness of the Christian theology. You'd be amazed at the depth of spiritual awareness that comes about within you as you expand your thoughts and open up your heart and mind to the many faces of God. God is God. It is up to each of us to find God, not only as we were taught to know God but, to see God (and the Christ) in all faiths.

That is how Thomas Merton, a great mind in the Catholic faith, finally discovered the top of his 7 story mountain. He met and spoke with the Dalai Lama. It strengthend his (Catholic in that case) faith and gave the Dalai Lama a fresh, new, perspective of Christianity, which, I believe, all works for the greater glory of God. That spark of divinity, the Christ or, to use another word, the Chi, is in all of us. How wonderful the experience is when that spark ignites in us of different faiths!

“It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life.”
―Emmet Fox

There are other answers as well


Nonna, If you are not speaking of the single, one and only Lord Jesus Christ, who died, was burried, and rose again as set forth in the Bible. It would be better if you did not speak for Christ. The Apostle Paul said these words and they are very concerning, but if I did not tell you, what kind of friend would I be?

Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) 2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: 5 To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Nonna, do you understand what the Gospel of Christ is? I ask because I think maybe you have not understood. I do not come as an enemy, but trying to be helpful. I have no opinion of my own. I can only know what God says in the Bible. Jesus declared He was the Way the Truth and the Life and that no one could come to the Father, but by Him. If that is not the truth, then Jesus is a liar.

Nonna, You say these words:

"That spark of divinity, the Christ or, to use another word, the Chi, is in all of us."

That is the oppposite of scripture. The Bible says that people are DEAD in their tresspasses and sin and without hope and that they must be born again.

you may be leading people the wrong way with your words. Are you OK with that?



Nonna, I feel better just having read your

eloquent prose. Thank you.

"Love thy enemies

And pray for the ones who persecute you." These are the words of Jesus. But before we try to do that, we need to realize that we do not have such love to love our enemies. We as sinful human beings do not have the love to love unconditionally. We all love because of the benefit we would receive in return. I think the closest unconditional love we have is parents' love for children. It is clear through the Bible, that we cannot do it without Jesus Christ.

Only God has such unconditional love for people. So only when we allow God to love through us, then we can love our enemies and pray for the ones who persecute us.

Definitely such love comes from faith in God and a true knowledge of God. God is love, and the more we know Him, the more we can love like Him. So how can we do it? From my own personal experiences, I can say that the only way is to go to the Cross and die to my self, let Jesus live through me, and love through me.

Forgiveness is also a very important part of loving your enemy. When we realize that we are sinners just as evil as any other sinners in the world, then it is easy to forgive. When you realize that you have hurt God more than any one else has hurt you, then it is easy to forgive. When you realize even though you have hurt and wrong God and deserve to go to hell forever and ever, and God has forgiven you, then is it very easy to forgive.

Also, knowing God means understanding He is in COMPLETE control. If you know this, then it is easy to love and forgive and pray for your enemies. The martyrs of the past used to kiss the hands of their executioners, because the persecution brought them closer to God. So does all the trials, troubles, problems, disasters, and tragedies. They bring us closer to God. Therefore we can love and forgive.

The key is to know God. Once you know Him and Jesus Christ, then you shall be like Him, and then we shall be able to love with God's unconditional love.

i really don't know, but

i really don't know, but there were times when i was carrying a backpack and walking up north and felt suffering. for people.


I've known Christ since I was a child. Please don't confuse

knowing Christ with the modern concept of 'christianity'--it's sadly way off.

Anyway, I have struggled with this question more in the last 2-3 years, than ever before. For example, if my door is kicked in by nazi-like government agents, is it 'loving my neighbor' to shoot them? If I do not defend my family, it is not loving my family. So, you see the dilemma. I have resolved to trust God to direct me in each individual situation--he knows the hearts of those wronging me better than I.

In a nutshell, to love your neighbor as yourself means to will his good as you would will your own. How would you want someone to treat you if you were in his situation? You want the best for him and don't want him to end up in hell. You do your best to reach his heart with the message of Jesus Christ. But, obviously you cannot love an evil man's victims, if you are allowing him to victimize them.

Christians should not be warmongers! http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance87.html

Love your enemies unconditionally

I spoke to my congregation this week about loving your enemies. I told them the police have a job to do and MIT has there job to do. The church has its job to do and it is to love our enemies,then I told them I prayed for Bin Laden until the day he died not because I was soft on crime but because Christ loved the very people who nailed Him to the cross.
I also related to them that the church had failed in its responsibility to these two young men. I said "I took the time to read the younger brothers tweets and he said he wasn't a lifeguard for the money but he was a lifeguard to save lives. His older brother wanted to be an Olympic boxer for the USA as he stood before an American flag.These young men were not always bad but something happened to them. The church didn't reach them so somebody else did."
I continued " God gives us a choice we can take a pressure cooker and fill it full of nails and ball bearings or we can take this symbol of terror and fill it full of potatoes,carrots and roast.We can fill our lives with hate or we can fill our lives with love. With the pressure cooker filled with love we can now invite the poor and our enemies to sit down to dinner with us for what the early church called a love feast."
I then said "this is addressed to the the two guys in black hoods and automatic weapons who stood on video on either side of accused bomber. God sees through your hoods and automatic weapons and says to you I love you and I want you to follow me." I then addressed them " my God Jesus Christ Loves you and so do I."