With the enablement of God’s Spirit, living as a faithful disciple of Christ is possible (Phil. 2:12–13)—but it is certainly not easy. Christ’s command for us to take up our cross indicates that following Him is difficult (Mark 8:34–35), but that is not all He has to say about the arduous nature of discipleship. Recall, for example, our Savior’s admonition to love our enemies, a command Paul echoes in today’s passage (Matt. 5:43–48; Rom. 12:14).
Proverbs 25:21–22 encourages us not to treat our enemies the way that they treat us, but first-century Jews were not known for blessing their enemies. The idea was even stranger for the pagan Romans, who, unlike the Jews, did not have the benefit of possessing God’s Word. The admonition is no easier for us today, considering our instinctive response to those who mistreat us. We find it almost impossible to put this teaching to love our enemies into practice. It takes a special, divine kind of love to bless one’s enemies, and our Savior Himself makes this most evident, loving us enough to bless us by dying for us when we were yet God-hating sinners (Rom. 5:8). God gives us a divine kind of love when He changes us, and when we walk in it by the power of His Spirit we can, indeed, bless our enemies. Such blessing is not mere endurance but actually wishes our foes well in our thoughts and actions.
However, blessing our enemies does not mean we may never call for judgment upon them at the proper time. After all, Paul anathematized those who persecute the true church of God by twisting the gospel (Gal. 1:8–9; 6:12). Moreover, many imprecatory psalms in the Old Testament call on the Lord to destroy the enemies of Israel, and even Jesus Himself declared woes upon the Pharisees (Matt. 23). Apparently, calling for our Creator to judge our enemies is not inappropriate in cases of grave, impenitent assaults on His church. We reconcile this with God’s call to bless our foes by holding out hope that the Lord will judge our enemies as He has judged us, namely, by crushing our sin on the cross and changing us into His friends. On this side of heaven, any call for judgment must embrace the hope that God would bring salvation to our enemies through judgment as He has done for us.
Sincere love for our enemies manifests itself in our blessing them. True affection is on display in the Christian community when we “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep.” In the church, there must be no jealousy over others’ success, and we must enter into the grief of other suffering believers.