But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in Heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Jesus makes it clear that I am to treat all people, even those who count themselves as my enemies, the same—loving them and praying for them. Because Jesus put this instruction in terms of God’s evenhandedness with all of us makes it clear that I also am not to make any distinction among people; the just and the unjust are to be loved by me as they are by God.
So what Jesus is really saying to me is that I am not to have enemies. I can’t control what others think about me, or if they view me as an enemy, but I can control how I feel about others and how I treat them, and according to Jesus, I am to treat all people with love.
There’s a sign in front of a church I drive by almost daily that says: “Love your enemies. It will mess with their heads.” The idea of loving your enemies is good, but the implied motivation behind it is wrong. If I really love my enemies, then they aren’t my enemies and I won’t have any desire to mess with their heads. To want to do that shows vindictiveness that is incompatible with love.
There is no compatibility between Jesus’ way of love and the way society encourages me to look out for myself and not allow another to get the better of me. I simply cannot put my agenda first, but must always act out of love for Jesus and love for others. Anything that encourages me otherwise (even if the message is in front of a church) should be avoided at all costs.