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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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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 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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