If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
Let God's children stand up. Here is your test. Do you love your enemies? Do you treat your enemies well, when they have needs. Your sinful nature revolts at such selfless thoughts, but the wisdom from heaven teaches better. Let God's true children stand up.
What a lofty and noble standard Solomon sets forth here! What pagan religion or holy book can match this definition of love? The natural man wants to limit love to those who love him and limit service to those who will return the favor (Luke 6:32-34). So the Pharisees perverted God's word and taught that we should hate our enemies (Matt 5:43).
Jesus repeated this holy proverb, when He said, "Love your enemies." He rebuked our sinful instincts and taught that God sends rain and sunshine on both enemies and friends (Matt 5:43-48). For us to be like our Heavenly Father, we must do the same. We must love our enemies by treating them well. Paul also taught the lesson (Rom 12:17-21).
Many think Jesus taught a new standard of righteousness, but Solomon taught the same truth 900 years earlier in our proverb. And Moses taught it 1500 years before Jesus (Ex 23:4-5). So much for those who think Jesus preached a new gospel of love - wisdom and righteousness do not change. God and His children always treated enemies kindly. The "new commandment" is new only in principle and example (John 13:34-35; I Jn 2:7-11).
These are not national or civil enemies. Under the Old Testament, the national enemies of Israel were to be exterminated. Under the New Testament, nations must protect themselves by fighting enemies (Luke 3:14; Rom 13:4-5). Civil governments still wage war to protect their citizens, and they still put capital offenders to death by civil laws.
This rule does not modify authority or punishment at all. Parents still discipline children without regard for this proverb, for it does not apply to them. Churches still discipline members without regard for this proverb, for it does not apply to them either. The pointed object of the proverb is how each man treats his personal enemies.
The commandment to love our neighbors includes our enemies. Jesus said the whole law hung on the first two commandments, and He was right. When asked to define a man's neighbor, Jesus told of the Good Samaritan helping the wounded Jew, which was a profound answer, for the Jews and Samaritans were enemies (Luke 10:25-37; John 4:9).
Does the LORD allow grudges and bitterness in our hearts, when we cannot touch our enemies due to circumstances? Not at all (Lev 19:18; James 5:9)! Solomon even teaches elsewhere that we must not rejoice when our personal enemies experience trouble (Pr 24:17). His father, David, had practiced this rule well (Ps 35:11-16). Do you sorrow when your enemies are troubled? Do you rejoice when your enemies are blessed?
Is the lesson a mere prohibition of retaliation toward enemies? Is it merely a reminder to desire our enemies' good? No, on both counts! It goes beyond these two lines; it teaches positive performance! Praying for an enemy is one thing; entertaining him is another!
How can we ever do such a thing? Though the lesson is gloriously noble and benevolent, who can overturn his heart's lust for revenge and feed his enemy? We might as well try to create a new earth! But His grace and strength are sufficient (II Cor 12:9; Phil 4:13).
Why should we do something so strange to our natural instincts? To be the children of our Father in Heaven (Matt 5:43-48), to either melt or grieve our enemies' hearts by our kindness (Pr 25:22; Rom 12:20), to overcome their evil with our good by the Spirit (Rom 12:21), and to secure the reward of the LORD (Pr 25:22). What else could we desire? The blessing of the LORD is upon those who will return blessing for railing (I Pet 3:8-11)!
Ah, dear reader, can you be thankful for enemies? If you had no enemies, how could you possibly show the character and grace of your Father and win the blessings of the previous paragraph? Paul learned this lesson and took pleasure in the reproaches and persecutions he endured and conquered by God's grace (II Cor 12:10). The perverseness of our enemies is our blessing, for it gives us opportunity to step ever closer to heaven.
Examine yourself and identify those who are your personal enemies - those who hate you, despitefully use you, curse you, and persecute you. Forgive them, pray for them, and purpose and plan to go to their aid in some area of need. You can do it by His grace.
Can you hear our Savior say, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" to the enemy who had sold him for a few pieces of silver (Matt 26:50)? Jesus further sought forgiveness for the soldiers who crucified Him (Luke 23:34), and the deacon Stephen followed our Lord's example by praying for those who stoned him to death (Acts 7:60).
But our Lord has done far more than these acts of supernatural kindness - He died for us when we were His avowed enemies (Rom 5:6-10)! Dear reader, if you believe yourself a son of God, follow your Master's example and show it by positively loving your enemies.