This always confused me. We read this in Matthew 5:43-45

Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV) - “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

But we read that Jesus was severely angry with Jewish scholars (especially Pharisees and scribes) by calling them "hypocrites", "snakes", "offspring of vipers", "fools" etc in Matthew 23:13-36, Mark 7:6, etc.

We even see Jesus saying to Jews that their father is devil (John 8:44). Does this mean we are supposed to love our enemies, but hate God's enemies?

4 Answers 4


TL;DR Tough love is not hate

Judaism teaches that you should treat your enemy fairly. The laws of retribution, like "eye for an eye", are limitations on how much retribution you can do to someone. It's designed to promote justice over vengance. But Christ had this way of pushing you to go further than the Law required. So while the Law taught justice. Christ taught mercy.

But when Jesus was "on a rant" about the Jewish leadership, it wasn't hate. If you follow the news at all you've seen stories like the one about the fiery anti-gay preacher who was discovered having gay sex or the one about the man who murdered an abortion doctor in a church because the Bible says "Thou shall not kill". You've seen Christians who demand the strictest adherence to the most conservative reading of the Law while not being able to hold themselves to the same standard. This is what Jesus was addressing with the Jewish leaders. It was actually more on go beyond the letter of the Law. Don't just help someone because that's what the law says, help them because you care about them.

Several years ago I wrote an article about how I have to love the very people I want to hate most: our modern day Pharisees who preach hate and division in the name of Jesus. But, I don't have to love them because Christ told me to. I have to love them because I know exactly what it is to be wrong. I've been a hypocrite. I've been a liar. I've hurt people so badly that it's physically painful to even think about it. I am an enemy of God and I know that despite all of that God still loves me. The Bible, God's own Law, says that I'm free to hate them because they're my enemies but how can I hate them without hating myself. So I find myself forced to go beyond the law and love them. I want them to be better. I even correct them when I think it will do the most good. But, none of that means that I don't love them.

  • +1 because I like the answer on the whole. I'm not sure what is meant by "Pharisees who preach hate and division in the name of Jesus" I agree with you whole-heartedly when we are really talking about hate and division in the name of Jesus. But that also sometimes can be a code word for folks who preach the Bible and all of it's council, even the tough parts. Using the context of your answer, I think we probably agree here, but you never know :)
    – Mike Walsh
    Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 16:14
  • I'm avoiding naming names because that's also divisive but, I'm talking about people who routinely and deliberately do things that can only be construed as hateful and hurtful. Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 18:24

Jesus was only correcting the religious leaders and scholars because they were in the wrong. Jesus did not do anything to harm them. Many of the religious leaders were jealous of Jesus because Jesus knew too much and they hated him because Jesus knew their hidden activities. The Pharisees and Sadducees always wanted to challenge the wisdom of Jesus but they always failed, which made them more jealous and angry. Jesus knew their heart and their stubbornness. They were so stubborn to accept Jesus as a man from God even though they saw the extraordinary miracles with their own eyes. That is why Jesus called them "hypocrites", "snakes", "offspring of vipers", "fools" etc.

However, not all pharisees were wicked, there was a pharisee called Nicodemus, who approached Jesus to seek his spiritual counsel and Jesus revealed great things to him.

By saying "Love your enemies", Jesus meant that we should not take revenge on them or harm them but instead we should show kindness to them and pray for them. Jesus did that exactly when He was being crucified.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NIV)

Here is how we can show our love to our enemies.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21, NIV)

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    not all pharisees were wicked - there was also that one guy who wrote like half the New Testament... :D Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 18:29

Jesus' teaching on loving your enemies is perhaps one his most--if not the most--difficult. By combining His teaching in Matthew and Luke, we learn exactly who our enemies are. They are people who

  • Insult us

  • Persecute us

  • Spread falsehoods about us

  • Hate us

  • Exclude us

  • Reject our name as evil

Fueled by the old nature, we quite naturally either lash out at people who do the above things to us, or we secretly plot our revenge. Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold!

Fueled by the new nature, however, we begin to see our enemies as those whom Christ loves and for whom He died, just as He loves us and died for us. We all are just sinners saved by God's grace. The ground is level at the cross. Jesus, of course, set the example for us in these matters. Rather than calling ten thousand angels to rescue Him from His tormentors at Calvary, Jesus asked His Father to forgive them for their ignorance.

As for His lambasting the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, think of it as a form of discipline, not vengeance or hate. Knowing what was in people's hearts, Jesus "told it like it is." Much like a good parent who reprimands his or her child and perhaps provides some judicious and appropriate punishment, Jesus as God in the flesh spoke His harshest reprimands to people who should have known better but didn't.

The leaders of the religious establishment in Jesus' day loved to be called, "Rabbi" (i.e., teacher), oblivious that their praxis did not match their theory. Consequently, Jesus gave them a taste of the judgment to come by calling them to account for their hypocrisy, giving them a chance to repent.

"Let not many of you become teachers," James said, "knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment" (3:1).

In Jesus' day, the Samaritans were the sworn enemies of orthodox Jews. To them they were worse than your average garden-variety Gentiles because the Samaritans held to a bastardized form of Judaism that included pagan elements and accretions which crept in during the Jews' Babylonian captivity. Knowing this, when a self-righteous lawyer tried to trip Jesus up and at the same time justify himself by asking "Who is my neighbor?", Jesus then delivered a scathing rebuke by telling the story of the "Good Samaritan."

In short, Jesus told this lawyer that his neighbor was in fact his enemy! How scandalous, and how revolutionary Jesus' teaching was. I suggest, however, it is no less revolutionary today. If you can somehow get past being slandered, rejected, hated, persecuted, and excluded, what are your chances of getting past radical Islam or other enemies (e.g., Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, pro-abortionists, atheists, et al.)? When is the last time you prayed for Muslims or for Planned Parenthood?

The lunatic fringe of Islam may be America's enemies, but even they are human beings whom God loves and for whom He sent His Son to die.

I am not suggesting that America not defend herself against another 9/11, nor do I condone, for example, the mass killings of Christians by Muslims in the Central African Republic. The "authorities that be" in any country in which such atrocities take place need to do everything in their power to bring them to a halt. And what of the Christians in C.A.R.? Should they simply lie down and take it, or should they take up arms to defend themselves?

Frankly, I have no easy answers, and I am not sufficiently familiar with the situation in C.A.R. to have an opinion about how persecuted Christians there should respond to Muslim violence directed at them. Is it inappropriate for a husband and father (or a wife and mother) to take up arms in defense of his (or her) family? True, in the Garden of Gethsemane where the Roman soldiers arrested Jesus, He did tell Peter to put away his sword and actually healed an "enemy" whose ear Peter cut off in his haste to defend his Lord. Was that Jesus' final word on the matter; that is, "Christians, put away your weapons"?

The fairly recent book by Dekker and Medearis, Tea With Hezbollah, brings Jesus' teaching on enemies into the 21st century poignantly and powerfully. I commend it to anyone who is interested in an up-to-date application of the "Samaritan ethic" in today's hurting world.

  • Why are you putting Hamas in the same category as pro-abortion?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jun 1 at 9:52
  • @BCLC: Not the same category, but equally repugnant to God, I suggest. Commented Jun 2 at 2:23

God created POLARITY. Positive cannot exist without negative. God loved Jacob but hated Esau. God created both ends of polarity: Isaiah 45:7. He kills and gives life. The God of love is also the God of wrath. Love does not tolerate wrong. Jesus was speaking to those under the Roman and Edomite rulership who hated their enemies, all those from other nations who were not of the 'chosen' nation of Israel. They hated all other nations and called them 'dogs.' This was about to change as the Old Covenant was 'passing away,' as Paul says in Hebrews. It passed in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and all things pertaining to their world, their 'heaven and earth.' Loving someone does not mean you let them slap you around, steal your possessions and insist you partake of their evil deeds. We have a new and better covenant, one in which individuals have the right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' There is no Jew or Gentile/nations to God as we are all one in his sight. God is not racist, neither is he pacificist. One who will not protect himself, his family, his neighbor, his country from the enemy is worse than an infidel.

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    The question asked, Does this mean we are supposed to love our enemies, but hate God's enemies? It sounds like your answer would be, "No, unlike in the old covenant, we are to love everyone." Can you elaborate on why you'd answer that way? After all, the OP used examples from Jesus himself to formulate his hypothesis. Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 18:34

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