Recently I received a note from a friend, Rochelle Sadie (whose blog about recovering from domestic abuse is here).
The verse that the enemy likes to use against me to guilt trip me is Luke 6:32 when Jesus said “anyone can love someone who is nice to them, but it’s better to love your enemy.” Basically I feel so much condemnation, like I’m taking the easy way out by avoiding my abuser, and God is disappointed in me that I would not seek to “love my enemies” or just try to work around their “shortcomings.”
I wonder – if you might help me understand Jesus’ true intentions with this statement. What is the heart of God regarding our attitude toward our abusers and sometimes toward those who pressure us to return to an abuser and/or a chronically unfaithful man?
Here is my reply.
Thank you for writing. There’s an important question we need to ask ourselves:
Does love mean enabling wrongdoing?
When you love your enemies, will you help them, even passively, along their wicked path?
No, it is actually not loving to enable a sinner to continue in his sinful path without consequences. When an addict wants to feed his addiction, it’s not loving to do that, even though it may feel or look like it is.
When an abuser wants to abuse, it may look loving to stand there and take it. But when a person is hell-bent on a path of wickedness, the most loving thing to do is not to assist him on that path, even if it’s simply “passive assistance” by refusing to speak up about it, or covering for him to the children or the church.
Rather, it’s far more loving—loving to him—to get the target of his abuse out of his way. In fact, the most loving thing for that person in those circumstances is to take away any enablement on that wicked path. Then, to pray that he’ll come to repentance (until/unless the Lord commands otherwise).
You left the abuser for your own health and safety. But it’s also the best thing for his health and safety.
When Jesus said “love your enemies,” He was not by any means indicating that we are to allow them to harm us as they please.
Loving from a distance
You can still love the abuser and pray for him from a distance, but that love, and those prayers, will look different from what they would have looked like if you thought you needed to simply silently remain under the devil’s thumb. We can pray for the repentance and salvation of our enemies, even while keeping wise boundaries in place.
Consider the apostle Paul, who loved the Jews who persecuted him, and prayed for their salvation. With all the many times they stoned him and tried to kill him, he escaped from them whenever he could. He never felt like he needed to just stand there and take it in the name of loving his enemies.
The same is true for David, who ran from his enemy King Saul. Never did he conclude that he should allow Saul to kill him in the name of loving his enemies.
The same is true regarding those who continually tell you that you should return to one in whose life wickedness has run rampant, that you are the one in sin, for escaping. Even while you draw firm boundaries with those ignorant people, you can love them and pray for them, that God will open their eyes to understand the truth about wickedness.
Helping the helpless
We may have opportunities to help our enemies without putting ourselves in the way of wickedness. Jesus’ story of the Samaritan who stopped to help the wounded Jew alongside the road was a powerful story for His audience, because Samaritans were considered to be enemies of the Jews. Helping the helpless Jew indicated that the Samaritan loved his enemies.
But notice, the Samaritan did NOT seek out the robbers, knowing that they would have harmed him too. He helped his enemy when his enemy was helpless.
I know a woman whose abusive husband went into the hospital on life support. There he was in a place where he couldn’t harm her, so, for this one who had declared himself her enemy through years of words and behavior, she could show her sacrificial Christ-like love.
Helping a helpless person who has been your enemy? Yes, that is loving like Jesus.
Enabling an abusive, adulterous person? No, that isn’t what Jesus was talking about.
It can sometimes be challenging to sort it all out, especially when you’ve experienced such great betrayal. I pray that the Holy Spirit will give you wisdom as you proceed step by step.