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Bible Studies/Love your enemies psalm.


Dear J. Webb

In the Holy bible,Matthew - 5:43 - Love your enemies I have the following questions.

1 In the 21st century, it is very difficult to achieve the above?.

2 Will the enemy also think as we think?.


Dear Prashant,

(1) Loving someone who wishes you harm has always been difficult, and always will be difficult. It requires desiring (and working for, where possible) the well-being of another, when there is no reasonable expectation that your efforts will ever benefit you, and when to do so could even give your enemy more power to harm you. Loving the enemy is what Christ did when he laid down his life for the sake of humanity, which hated God and hated him.

"He came to his own, and his own did not accept him." (Jn 1:11)
"They hated me for no reason." (Ps. 69:4; Jn 15:25)
"The insults of those who insulted you landed on me." (Ps. 69:9; Rom. 15:3)
"They have hated both me and my Father." (Jn 15:24)

This is the essence of agape love: to love without any self-interest, only interest in the well-being of the other. It is the love that motivated God to bring humanity into existence, the love that motivates God to preserve us in existence, and the love that, if possible, would save all people (Mt. 5:43-48; 1 Tim. 2:4).

(2) There is no guarantee that loving your enemy will convert them to love, or at least to stop hating you and wishing you harm. But remember, changing their attitude towards you making them less dangerous and more amenable to your existence is not the point or purpose of love. Love is for their sake, not yours. Loving is good for you because it makes you like your Creator, which is a good thing (again, Mt. 5:43-48). This question about changing your enemy's mind reminds me of a story I heard just yesterday, which I imagine you may already know. Gandhi once heard that a local English colonist in the indigo business had sworn he would kill him if he should ever find him alone. Gandhi hiked to his house very early in the morning to make sure the man would be there, and presented himself at the door. When the sleepy man opened the door, he introduced himself and said, "I am here to make you fulfill your vow." I think Gandhi believed with great faith in the power of truth and love satyagraha to convert people, and he was fearless and even audacious in living it out. See under the section THE RELATIONS OF OPPRESSED AND OPPRESSOR in for the story and some theory related to it.

The Bible writers do not put it forward as an article of faith that you will convert your enemy by loving him or her. But they do write as though doing kindness is the strongest possible motivating force you can apply in a situation of oppression:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." (Prov. 25:22; Rom. 12:20)

My reading of this verse is not that you will somehow get revenge on the person by doing something good, but that you will give the person intense conscience pangs--which, if they heed them, will ultimately be good both for them and for you.


Webb Mealy

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J. Webb Mealy


Qualified to answer questions about the New Testament, including ones that require expert knowledge of Greek, New Testament History, and New Testament Theology. Particular area of expertise is New Testament eschatology (teachings on the end of the world), the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel and epistles of John. Questions about English translations--how they are arrived at, whether they are accurate, and whether there are alternative possibilities. Textual criticism.


Have taught the Bible and New Testament to lay people for 20 years. Translator of the Spoken English New Testament (, author of After the Thousand Years: Resurrection and Judgment in Revelation 20 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992). Senior Biblical Studies Editor, Sheffield Academic Press, 1990-1995.

Instructor, Seminary of the Street, Oakland, CA

See my online publication,, which gives an easy-to-understand but thorough introduction to the Christian Good News. See, home of the Spoken English New Testament, the most accurate available translation of the New Testament into natural contemporary English.

PhD, Biblical Studies, Sheffield, UK MA (Honors), Humanities, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY BA (Cum Laude), Religious Studies/New Testament, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA

Awards and Honors
Research Paper, "Tracing the Rise of Modalism in Rome," named best graduate paper of the year, Western Kentucky University, 1981

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