If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
All children of God stand up. Here is your test. Do you love your enemies? Do you treat your enemies well, when they have needs? Your sinful nature revolts at such selfless thoughts, but the wisdom from heaven teaches better. Let God’s true children stand up.
What a lofty and noble standard Solomon set forth here! What pagan religion or holy book can match this definition of love? The natural man wants to limit love to those who love him and limit service to those who will return the favor (Luke 6:32-34). So the Pharisees perverted God’s word and taught that you should hate your enemies (Mat 5:43).
Jesus repeated this holy proverb, when He said, “Love your enemies.” He rebuked your sinful instincts and taught that God sends rain and sunshine on both enemies and friends (Matt 5:43-48). For you to be like your Heavenly Father, you must do the same. You must love your enemies by treating them well. Paul also taught the lesson (Ro 12:17-21).
Many think Jesus taught a new kind of righteousness, but Solomon taught the same truth 900 years earlier in this proverb. Moses taught it 1500 years earlier (Ex 23:4-5). They are wrong who think Jesus preached a new gospel of love – wisdom and godliness do not change. God and His children always treated enemies well. The “new commandment” of love was new only in its emphasis, example, and evidence (Jn 13:34-35; I Jn 2:7-11).
These are not national or civil enemies. Under the Old Testament, the national enemies of Israel were to be exterminated. Under the New Testament, nations must protect themselves by defeating enemies (Luke 3:14; Rom 13:4-5). Civil governments still wage war to protect their citizens, and they still put capital offenders to death by civil laws.
This rule does not modify authority or punishment at all. Parents still discipline children without regard for this proverb, for it does not apply to them. Churches still discipline members without regard for this proverb, for it does not apply to them either. The pointed object of the proverb is how each man treats his own personal enemies over offences.
The commandment to love your neighbor includes your enemies. Jesus said the whole law hung on the first two commandments, and He was right. When asked to define a man’s neighbor, Jesus told of the Good Samaritan helping the wounded Jew, which was a profound answer, for the Jews and Samaritans were enemies (Luke 10:25-37; John 4:9).
Does God allow grudges and bitterness in your heart, when you cannot touch your enemies due to circumstances? Not at all (Lev 19:18; James 5:9)! Solomon even taught elsewhere that you must not rejoice when your personal enemies experience trouble (Pr 24:17). His father, David, had practiced this rule well (Ps 35:11-16). Do you sorrow when your enemies are troubled? Do you rejoice when your enemies are blessed?
Is the lesson a mere prohibition of retaliation toward enemies? Is it merely a reminder to desire your enemies’ good? No, on both counts! It goes beyond these two lines; it teaches positive performance. Praying for an enemy is one thing; entertaining him is another!
How can you learn such a thing? The lesson is gloriously noble and benevolent, but who can change his heart’s lust for revenge in order to feed his enemy? You might as well try to create a new earth! But God’s grace and strength are sufficient (II Cor 12:9; Phil 4:13).
Why should you do something so strange to your natural instincts? To be the children of your Father in Heaven (Matt 5:43-48), to either melt or grieve your enemy’s heart by your kindness (Pr 25:22; Rom 12:20), to overcome their evil by your good by the Spirit (Rom 12:21), and to secure the reward of the LORD (Pr 25:22)! What else could you desire? The blessing of God is upon those who return blessing for railing (I Pet 3:8-11).
Ah, dear reader, can you be thankful for enemies? If you had no enemies, how could you possibly show the character and grace of Almighty God and win the blessings of the previous paragraph? Paul learned this lesson and took pleasure in the reproaches and persecutions he endured and conquered by God’s grace (II Cor 12:10).
Without someone mistreating you, for example a boss or employer, you cannot show God any loyalty or service that deserves praise (I Pet 2:18-23). The perverseness of your enemy is your blessing, for it gives you an opportunity to step closer to Jesus and heaven.
Examine yourself and identify those who are your personal enemies – those who hate you, despitefully use you, curse you, or persecute you. Forgive them, pray for them, and purpose and plan to go to their aid in some area of need. You can do it by His grace.
Hear Jesus say, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” to the enemy who had sold him for a few pieces of silver (Matt 26:50). Jesus further sought forgiveness for the soldiers who crucified Him (Luke 23:34), and the deacon Stephen followed his Lord’s example by praying for those who stoned him to death (Acts 7:60). Can you, will you, be like them?
But Jesus did far more than these acts of supernatural kindness – He died for sinners when they were His avowed enemies (Ro 5:6-10). Dear reader, if you believe yourself a son of God, follow your Master’s example and show it by positively loving your enemies.