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In the video The Mission of CBI Japan and The Gospel Coalition at approximately 1:25, there's a reference to obeying Christ's call to "love your enemies." (Related question)

I'm a bit confused as to what's meant by "enemies."

There's three interpretations I can think of:

  1. One is a reference to World War II and other events. I'm not what nationality the speaker is, but I'm guessing either American or South Korean, both of whom would have regarded Japan as a past enemy. I don't know whether Christians regard the phrase "love your enemies" as being relevant to people from enemy countries - that sounds like a secular rather than a religious matter.
  2. One is a reference to those who persecute Christians. This doesn't seem plausible to me, because although Japan is predominantly non-Christian, that doesn't equate to persecution. I suspect there's more hostility towards Christians in Australia or the United States than in Japan!
  3. Wikipedia mentions an interpretation of all heathens as being "enemies". But this has a [citation needed] after it.

None of the interpretations seem that plausible. What's meant here?

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@Downvoter can you explain what is wrong with the question? –  Andrew Grimm Jan 15 '14 at 5:23
Jesus probably gave us the best answer to that in: Luke 9:49 and 50 KJV >49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. >50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. –  BYE Jan 15 '14 at 13:30

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The speaker is Michael Oh, the founder of Christ Bible Institute Japan. He is of Korean heritage but grew up in America.

I found a video (plus transcript) that explains more fully his animosity toward Japan, and the process of forgiveness he underwent. The video is of a talk he gave on night 5 of the Urbana missions conference in 2009. The animosity basically comes from what he calls the "Asian holocaust" and particularly Japan's occupation of Korea, in which his family experienced much cruelty at the hands of the Japanese.

In the video, Oh mentions these general facts about Japanese war crimes:

He also mentions that his father was beaten if he used his Korean name and that his grandfather's sister was married off after his family discovered that the Japanese took unmarried girls as comfort women.

I think you're overthinking the general application of "love your enemies," which was clearly intended for all enemies of all kinds. That is, the Christian is supposed to love all who mistreat him; this is the call that Michael Oh responded to by becoming a missionary to Japan. The command is recorded in Matthew 5 and Luke 6. Luke's version (in the NET) says:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. ... If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. ... But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

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The one reference to Korea and his fluent American accent suggest that his roots are in (South) Korea. My guess is about nationalistic rivalries, further back than WW II. I don't have references to cite for this, but I get the impression that the traditional Japanese notion of being descendants of the sun god has led the Japanese, historically, to think very highly of themselves, and less so of their Asian neighbors. This WSJ article makes some allusions to Japanese mistreatment of the Koreans during a 30-year military occupation in the first half of the 20th century. To someone with Korean roots, it might not be unusual to think of Japan as an enemy in the same way as the Irish might consider the English their enemies.

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Do Christians use the expression "Love your enemies" in the context of secular enemies such as different countries? –  Andrew Grimm Jan 15 '14 at 6:09
"Love your enemies" is a command to individuals (Mt 5:44), and so it extends to whomever the individual might consider an enemy (for any reason). The point is that we are to love everyone. –  mojo Jan 15 '14 at 13:24
Only if one can determine the context of 'love your enemies' can your question be answered. That is not so easy as it depends on where 'hate your enemies' come from. –  gideon marx Jan 15 '14 at 16:47
Jesus' statement about loving your enemies is unqualified. The context of "hate your enemies" doesn't have a limiting scope either. I don't see how knowing the source of this (probably) conventional wisdom affects the scope of Jesus' command. Trying to limit who qualifies as my "enemy" is as sensible as asking "Who is my neighbor?‌​" –  mojo Jan 15 '14 at 17:06
There is no law that we know of that says 'hate your enemies' in general. It is therefore interpretation that says 'love your enemies'. The word 'enemy' is a qualification no matter what you say and for that matter so is 'neighbor'. Everything we say is qualified. That is actually the purpose of language. –  gideon marx Jan 16 '14 at 9:11

Matthew 5:43-46:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy [Lev. 19:18].’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who ·hurt [persecute] you.[a] 45 ·If you do this, […so that] you will be ·true children [L children; or sons] of your Father in heaven. [L For] He causes ·the [L his] sun to rise on evil people and on good people, and he sends rain ·to those who do right and to those who do wrong [L on the just/righteous and the unjust/unrighteous]. 46 [L For] If you love only the people who love you, ·you will get no reward [what reward is there for that?]. ·Even [L Don’t even…?] the tax collectors do that.

I'm not sure what "context" exactly your referring to, but the message is simple: to be like our creator.


Acts 7:60 - Stephen prays for enemies.

60 He fell on his knees and cried in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” After Stephen said this, he ·died [L fell asleep; C for believers death is temporary, like sleep].

Luke 23:34 - Jesus prays for enemies.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”[a]

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"I'm not sure what "context" exactly you're referring to" - the video linked to by the text "The Mission of CBI Japan and The Gospel Coalition". –  Andrew Grimm Jan 15 '14 at 4:41

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