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.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.
Love this! I’ve come to see my divorce from my loving spouse to be a great act of love and mercy. Why? Because it gave him the chance to finally see his sins as is. I followed Matthew 18:15 and when he refused to listen to the church, the divorce was God’s mercy and my love to him to see that he needs to repent before God and find Jesus’ mercy. I couldn’t, the mentors couldn’t, the professional counselor couldn’t and the church couldn’t get him to see his sin of idolatry in abuse but hopefully someday through the divorce he will see his need for repentance. To not file for divorce and allow him to continue in his sin of idolatry and abuse wouldn’t have been unloving. When I filed for divorce, he didn’t meet me with repentance by a desire to have back what he rightfully loss and tried to gain it back through manipulation and control but I once again told him this is like a death certificate of what he broke. To miss Jesus in this life, is everything so I hope he finds Jesus through this!
I hope so too. I do appreciate that symbolism, Overcomer. In cases of Biblical divorce, the divorce certificate is more like a “death certificate” for what the covenant-violator destroyed.
Our god Yahweh is a covenant keeping God
Pursue us lord with love & mercy
Thank you Rebecca.
Love is not enabling sin.
Corrie ten Boom loved and forgave her torturers. But when God provided a way for her to leave the concentration camp she took it.
Yes, great example, thank you.
For me, this is one of your best postings! Confusion on this issue had me stuck for decades – continually allowing emotional abuse from those in my inner circle, thinking I was loving them like Jesus! The turmoil that resulted from this misunderstanding took an emotional toll on me – eventually, I wrote down what I learned on this topic… Here is an excerpt:
We can’t sacrifice justice – something God loves Ps37:28 – and tolerate evil – something he hates Prov 8:13 – in the name of Christian love! Love does not exist in the absence of justice. Love that is grounded in truth is real and authentic, not the counterfeit variety. Authentic love does not see things through the rose-colored glasses of denial. Real love is not afraid to tell the truth or hear it; at the same time, it never uses the truth as a club. Real love sees people as they really are and still wants the best for them, understanding that the best always includes accountability-this is unconditional love.
These are excellent thoughts. Thank you, Jane.
I pray that those who psychopathically preyed on me and repeatedly criminally victimized me and nearly murdered me will either repent or burn in hell. Since they won’t repent, as they are proud of their evildoing and wicked selves, it’s pretty much Imprecatory Psalms and hoping they die soon so they might no longer plague the world and victimize others.
Those who evidently laugh at the concept of God or doing right and truly glorify themselves as to how evil they are. I don’t see how or why I should be praying for anything but that God sends them into the pit when they finally expire.
This may be sin on my part. I’m not sure. But if any of them were in heaven, they’d make heaven into hell, being evil through and through.
And some people are so evil, wicked, violent, and dangerous, that if they are bleeding out on the side of a road, it’d be a merciful thing and beneficial for the world at large to let them bleed out, so they cannot harm anyone anymore. I wouldn’t throw salt in their wounds and all, to torture them, but I’d feel awfully tempted to let them die instead of saving their lives through heroic efforts and then their patched up selves are free to prey on more innocents. So many murderous, dangerous, psychopathic predators never see a single day in jail and aren’t about to be otherwise restrained in their reign of evildoing.
Maybe I’ve lost my way with the above thoughts, but it’s where I am at right now. Feel free to criticize and rebuke me, as I wonder if all the damage, harm, evil depravity and wickedness has been too much and blackened my soul. Why shouldn’t I hope for God’s wrath to be poured out on them? Why shouldn’t I hope for God to repay them and for Him to avenge?
With the Good Samaritan, it wasn’t necessarily the Good Samaritan’s mortal enemy found helpless on the side of the road, someone who’d personally beaten, robbed, brutalized, tortured, abused, sexually assaulted, etc. the Good Samaritan. It was just another person, although I think they ran in different groups and weren’t to associate with one another, so the social status and societal prejudice was there.
How does Psalm 139:21-22 factor into this all?
“Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.”
Perhaps there’s a qualification there as to who and what an enemy is, in reference to ‘love your enemies’ versus those who are so out-and-out wicked, depraved, evil, dangerous, and psychopathic that their demonic selves are referred to in Psalm 139:21-22 and are no longer mere ‘enemies’ of us, but rather are God’s enemies and are to not be loved or prayed for or anything other than hated, “with complete hatred”.
And again, I welcome rebuking, comments, criticism, and edification, as I don’t want to lose my soul ever and never do I want to be separated from God, so if I’m straying from the path, by all means, tell me.
Struggling, I feel for you in all that you’ve had to endure. My heart goes out to you.
In the case of the Good Samaritan, in the blog post I observed that he didn’t go after the robbers to help them–he helped the helpless man.
I agree that if a hard-hearted Satan-follower is bleeding and dying on the side of the road I also wouldn’t want to help him recover to continue to pursue his extreme wickedness in harming others. I believe telling him the truth about who and what he is and who God is would be the most loving thing to do while he’s dying.
There came a time when Samuel was told to stop praying for Saul because he had set his heart against God Himself. I know two women who also believe God has told them not to pray for their husband/ex-husband because in each case the man’s heart has been set against God Himself and He plans to bring them to destruction. This is what He has promised to do to all those whose hearts continue to be set against Him.
You said, “I wonder if all the damage, harm, evil depravity and wickedness has been too much and blackened my soul.” One who is truly set against God would never wonder such a thing, so I pray that you’ll take heart. So much evil has been done to you, and Jesus wants to heal you and bring you to a place of peace. I’m praying for you.
Yes, I was thinking about how the Good Samaritan story had been pitched to me in the past. Your point was good.
And thanks for reminding me about Saul and how there was a point to stop praying for him. I don’t pray for those who harmed me. They are like Satan himself. And proud of it, too.
Oh good, what a relief, in my worry as to whether or not my soul is blackened with all the deleterious effects and all, it shows I’m still God’s child. Struggling, but struggling towards God, not away and against. Whew!
Thank you for your prayers and for your blog. So much wisdom.
Jesus came to redeem from sin AND shame. Sometimes the actual meaning of that second part doesn’t get carried over.
Yes, I know of many who have given themselves over to Satan and are proud of it. Though the offer of salvation is still open to them, it is predicated only on repentance. I know of many who may well have hardened their hearts far beyond any twinge of conscience or touching of the heart to repent. They are completely set against God and His Kingdom.
I’ve been thinking about this all. And witnessing to the dying evil person is acceptable and good. After you said that, I thought about it and it’s only right. It’s a hypothetical, of course.
But the two criminals condemned to die with Jesus. One did repent in his final moments (hours?) of life. He didn’t require anyone witnessing to him, but after all, he had Jesus right there.
The unfortunate thing is most all evil people I know, and have been victimized by, are not in the least bit close to death, but rather are flourishing. Perhaps God is having mercy on them — letting them prosper and flourish — because they are ultimately destined to burn in Sheol and that’ll be for eternity.
At any rate, love your blog, Rebecca!
Thank you, and I’m so sorry for what happened to you. The evil does make me very angry, and I know it sorrows and angers the heart of God as well.
I am so grateful to know that Jesus came to redeem me from shame. Shame has filled me since a small child. So grateful for your teaching! I will be exploring your blog posts on forgiveness as well.
He is the one who can deliver from shame, and it is a beautiful thing to see. He took the shame upon Himself in His loving sacrifice. He can receive your shame for you and give you His righteousness in the Great Exchange.
Jesus stands with us as we survey the cross where our emotional Hurts are nailed
He laid his life down to call us friends & not enemies.
Jesus says you follow me never mind those enemies.
Believe in me for salvation comes from the Lord
My throne is the judgment seat for mine & you’re enemies
Psalm 91 Seek shelter in the most high.
I know this post is 3 years old, but I wanted to reply. I am very much in the same boat as you were 3 years ago. I have had been physically, emotionally, and sexually abused most of my life. I’ve also been shot twice. All of these were done by people who were supposed to love me. Most of it done by people who were supposed to protect me, and some who professed to love Jesus.
Seeing your conversation with Rebecca and her blog post has helped me. I just wanted you both to know that. I have walked away from God, it was more like I was so angry that He allowed these things to happen (not just to me, but to so many people in this world) that I was like the teenager who doesn’t speak to their parents when they’re angry. I believed in God. I just believed I was a horrible human being since all those things had happened. I am now learning that is not true at all. I, too, am struggling. But day by day, I am unlearning false teachings from well meaning Christians and learning God’s love from God Himself.
Again, thank you both!
Heather, I grieve for the horrific way you have been treated at the hands of those who claim they belong to God. This is such an evil travesty.
I hope you can see you are not a horrible human being for these things to have happened to you–they were done by those who have given themselves to evil.
I pray that you can see that the precious sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ was given for YOU, for your purification. You are a precious one. God bless you.
Thank you, Rebecca! This is your best post every, I think! I’m so glad that you explained some of the nuances. When I am trying to decide whether or not to keep some distance from someone, I asked myself – “what is your motive?” If my motive is protection, then this is a valid reason to keep a safe distance. If my motive is simply to ‘shun,’ then maybe not.
I think “shun” would be a definite no. I’ve known people who have been shunned, and it’s devastating. The only motive behind shunning is to shame, but the motive behind protection is love.
Hello, Rebecca (and fellow survivors). I cannot feel love, will certainly not enable, but I have found it is forgiveness which frees me. I have been hard at work in the healing process for decades after God revealed, with flashbacks, heinous acts of incest. Initially, I rejected the notion of forgiveness (and the sin of self protection), but God’s faithfulness has returned me to the cross. Even now, after so many years, it is a process. It isn’t logical, but God is not confined by logic; His ways are higher than mine. In my experience, I must draw from His example and the mystery of my life hidden in Christ and His life in me. Contrary to popular thought in a secular world, lack of forgiveness isn’t a win for anyone but keeps me in bondage. “Give us, this day, our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” For me, I tasted freedom in forgiveness and am working down a very lengthy list. I also would like to acknowledge, we are all in different places on our journeys. Submitting to Christ with a response of forgiveness is contrary to our flesh, however, there is no condemnation in Christ. Regardless of where we find ourselves, His grace and mercy are there to meet us. He will finish the work He began in us…
Blessings to all, Angela Stoner
Thank you, Angela; that is an important word. It’s also important to understand what forgiveness actually is and isn’t. I’ve written a few posts that talk about that, four of which are here:
Indeed! Well said. It took YEARS for me to identify what I was forgiving because identifying the evil and feeling appropriate emotion took A LONG TIME! Reminder: I am a work in progress. Smile. The damage caused by the abuse created significant emotional damage, some days I swim, sometimes I float and sometimes it feels like I am drowning. Therefore, identifying evil, feeling the appropriate anger and choosing forgiveness has been a painful, messy, inefficient process. No matter how hard I “tried” I could never renew my mind enough to transform my heart. I humbly discovered I am powerless over my own heart and am absolutely powerless over the speed of my journey. God used Lewis Smedes to teach me, “When we forgive evil, we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.” Peace.
God bless you on your journey, Angela.
Forgiveness does not automatically imply restored relationship. It is preposterous for a loving God to force his children to place themselves back into a situation that is abusive and terrifying. I do believe we are allowed boundaries to protect ourselves from others that commit atrocities big and small furthermore, I don’t believe he would ever expect or want us to try and forge a relationship with evildoers. Would an loving, caring earthly father want his children to do that? Why would the Father of the universe expect that? I would never visit or care for a man in a hospital.. that abused me. I would run and not look back. Forgiveness yes… relationship.. no way. And that is not sinful, it’s smart.
first and foremost, I am extremely grateful to receive God’s graceful mercy. As day by day, I’m studying the Scripture, I found and stumble at this commandment, love your enemies. I found extremely hard since some of those people did a lot of awful thing that exceed mere judgements toward me. How to love someone who try to kill you . It there a difference between enemies as general opposition versus God’s enemies. What if the abusers try to use your faith and belief in which this verse to further hurt you. The only grace that I can do is praying for them from afar. I have been very torn by this verse. I truly believe forgiveness does not mean forcibly forge a relationship or forcibly quickly given . I read some comments below, I can deeply relate that by distancing I’m protecting myself. I’m still really new in my journey following God. Please help me to understand this verse from a different perspective.
God bless you, Fearless bird! I’m so glad to hear you’re on a journey following God!
I pray that you’ll be able to see the verse from the perspective described in this article. When an abuser tries to use your Christian faith and belief to further hurt you, then you are suffering for Jesus Christ. But you don’t have to stay and suffer! The examples we have in the Scriptures and in history show us that we should escape the suffering whenever we can. Here’s another blog post that I hope will be helpful, “How to handle those ‘forgive and forget’ Scriptures” https://heresthejoy.com/2018/03/forgive-and-forget/
I pray that you’ll find a way to be safe and be able to truly get to know the Lord Jesus Christ who saved you. Love to you.
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