Jesus said it: “Love your enemies” (Mt 5:44; Lk. 6:27).

So we’re supposed to do it!

But how?



Why did it take me so long to figure out this obvious thing: where scripture gives such a command, it often follows with the how-to.

And that’s what Jesus does with this one.

He tells us to bless them that curse us,

do good to those who hate us,

and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute us…

— as if that makes it easier!



I have come to think that any good course of action best begins with prayer, and prayer is part of both Matthew’s and Luke’s how-to’s…


“Have you prayed for them?” I asked.

Her voice wavered, hesitated. “I can’t!” she said, in a whisper of desperation.


What I suggested, responding to her desperation, was good, but still not good enough. It was just a start.

I urged her just to tell God what she told me, take it to Him, ask for His help.

But just asking for His help might not be enough, in some cases at least, to enable us to forgive.


It wasn’t for Corrie ten Boom

She stood there, cornered, that former Nazi extending his hand, speaking glowing words about the wonders of forgiveness — the forgiveness she’d just been preaching — and expecting her to reach out her hand to shake his.

She couldn’t. Simply couldn’t. Not that hand, belonging to that man…

the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravens-bruck… first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there — the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, [sister] Betsie’s pain-blanched face…*

But neither could she flee. So there she stood, as “angry vengeful thoughts boiled through” her.

And there he stood, hand extended. And she knew Jesus says, “Forgive,” and she 

thought how He died for this odious man as well as herself,

but she still couldn’t forgive.

Lord Jesus,” she prayed. “Forgive me, and help me to forgive him.

Yet the hand at the end of her arm remained paralyzed, like ice, frozen to her side. And the man’s hand was reaching, waiting.

In desperation she said it silent, “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.

And with that silent prayer her hand rose up and met that man’s, and…

as I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.*

We cannot love our enemies as we ought. We cannot forgive as we ought. And when we come to a crisis like Corrie’s ourselves, we are presented with an opportunity to behold a miracle, working right within and through us, to experience the incredible power of God in a helpless little human

Our cases might differ. This man had evidently acknowledged his sins and accepted Christ’s forgiveness, for he mentioned this to Corrie. Also, he approached her, and his extended hand was a sort of silent request for her forgiveness as well.

She did not go to him, nor put herself in harm’s way, in this life-altering interchange. We may have so many mitigating circumstances that wisdom warns us to consider and deal with before we go rushing off precipitously to action without equipping.

How to get equipped?

Well, I’m still working this out, how best to love my enemies.

So more on that in future posts.

Meanwhile… This post is best considered in context with at least the two preceding it.

And if you have old wounds to doctor and forgiveness not yet accomplished, you might just take the next several days, week, month, however long it takes, and wrestle it out with God. Use the Psalms. Find the ones that fit, that express your tangled feelings, good and bad. Speak them out to God. And remember as you pray how He loves you, yes He does.

And come on back later, so we can limp along together.

In Christ’s love.

* From The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom (next to the last page)

16 thoughts on “Love… My Enemies? (A How-to, Step 1a)

    1. And thank you, Ellen, for stopping by mine. Yes, this Corrie story inspires me a lot. God can do our impossible.
      CMA? Enlighten my ignorance? I/we used to attend a C&MA church where we used to live… (?)

  1. I read “The Hiding Place” decades ago and forgot this very important confrontation she faced. It’s packed full of truth. I’ve been studying forgiveness lately and this really describes a “home run” when it comes to applying forgiveness. I want to be like Corrie and “raise my hand.” Still praying for the courage in some of those moments in my life. Thanks so much for the thought-provoking post, Sylvia!

    1. Yep, Dawn. Another of God’s so-called “coincidences”! Such a blessing!

  2. I have a friend who started to pray for her co-workers that she didn’t really like a couple years back. After she’d been praying for about a month, almost each and every one of them came and asked if she’d do a bible study with them. They are now some of her best friends. So you are absolutely right, it should start with prayer.

    1. Amy,
      Isn’t that somethin’? What a clear and beautiful testimony to the power of praying for our “enemies”! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  3. Hi Beth,
    (I lost my original reply to you.)
    Yes, this incident does seem almost to be tucked at the end of the book as an afterthought, but for me it is one of the high points to remember. How God shows Himself powerful in our helplessness! Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment!

  4. Hi Sylvia – I have been walking a long road of forgiveness and it is made more difficult by the fact that the people to forgive continue their lies etc. But praying for them certainly has changed my views of them. Its changed my perception of them and its made me realize God’s amazing grace. Great post. Beautifully written. Thanks for linking up and I hope many pop over and read this. Look forward to seeing you next week
    God bless

  5. Yes, Tracy, I know exactly what you mean, when “the people to forgive continue their lies” — but also how “praying for them” changes your perception of them… These painful things can become God’s richest learning experiences. Still painful, but so blessed!

    Thank you for your visit and comment. I do hope to “see you next week.” Blessings!

  6. I recall a time when forgiving someone was very challenging. It seems I prayed for weeks Lord help me to be better and not bitter. I’m not sure when it happened but He did give me the strength to forgive and let go and not be bitter in the process. Pleasure to have met you Sylvia. Your blog is very nice.

    1. Wanda,
      A pleasure to have met you, too, and to receive your visit and comment. Those, like you, who have put God’s difficult but blessed process of forgiveness into action are the ones who understand the wisdom, and freedom, in it. God bless!

  7. A beautiful, even heart-wrenching post. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is one of the few books I would reread, again and again. Forgiveness is a powerful thing. There is a power that is held over us when we refuse to forgive. Then there is a power that moves through us when we ‘choose’ to forgive, asking for His help in that.

  8. I love the story of Corrie ten Boom. When we love our enemies it affects us in many ways — even physically! Such a good post, Sylvia.

  9. Yes, Denise, what intense emotions and powerful struggle Corrie must have gone through! I’m finding myself struggling in my prayers for some “enemies” just lately, and I never went through what she did! What an example she gives us, to call on God to take over.
    Also, I think there’s a power held over us, that also tries to discourage us *from* forgiving in the first place. But then the *real* enemy wouldn’t want that, would he? But how amazing God’s power is in overcoming him. Thanks for the good thoughts!

  10. Hi Pamela,
    Yes, I can remember one time in particular that the physical effect of loving an enemy was so similar to what Corrie described. And it was likewise a case that was “impossible” for me, and I had called on God to do the loving through me.
    Thanks so much for visiting and commenting!

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