Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a sermon Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, preached on Matthew 5:38-48 before he was imprisoned in 2018. Wang Yi argues in this excerpt that, because all people have been wronged, everyone longs for justice and even vengeance. He then explains that we ourselves cannot determine what vengeance is. Instead, we need someone else to decide on that. The bad news is that often justice is not served in our lives. The good news is that God will handle this — one day. In the meantime, because we trust that vengeance is in God’s hands, Christians are commanded to not only forgive those who harm us, but to take it a step further and love our enemies.

This is the fourth installment in this series.  (Parts one, two and three are linked here.)


38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Mt. 5:38-48

Let’s revisit what Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” (v. 38) He also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” (v. 43) “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a requirement of the law. The command is repeated several times in the Old Testament. It is a principle of legal justice; accepting justice from the law requires renouncing personal vengeance.

We have all been bullied and wronged; all of us carry sorrows and grievances that are hard to dispel. Deep down, we long for justice.

The second statement, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” is not a teaching of the law, but a distortion made by rabbis.

God established both church and government. Many of us have been bullied in society. Even if we won’t admit it, we have probably bullied others. We have all been bullied and wronged; all of us carry sorrows and grievances that are hard to dispel. Deep down, we long for justice.

Love Demands Justice

Brothers and sisters, do you have a deep-seated desire for “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”? Yes! In a sense, this is correct, signifying our longing for justice. You want to see justice done, sins accounted for and corrected, and sin eradicated. This is reasonable.

God allows those who have been wronged to appeal to the church’s spiritual government. But the church only has spiritual authority; she cannot enforce personal or property rights. God also allows appeal to government. Vengeance satisfies the principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and is right and necessary. Even so, it is difficult for today’s religion of love to understand how love demands vengeance and justice.


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Vengeance is not individual. God created the world, and has established both visible and invisible governments. The world does not seek justice through personal violence. Individuals must relinquish their own judgment and submit their grievances to a higher judge. No person can judge themselves. This is a fundamental principle of law and justice. This is also a basic understanding of love. You might be plaintiff, but the judge is always someone else. If you are in conflict with another person, you can sue, but you cannot decide. You must leave judgement to others.

It is difficult for today’s religion of love to understand how love demands vengeance and justice.

What does it mean to “leave room for the wrath of God”? It means you must leave your case in the hands of the divinely appointed judge. If the judge does not restore “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” then we inwardly appeal to the Lord himself. That is what Jesus is saying. It is reasonable to feel a desire for vengeance when we are hurt, and this need must be satisfied.

Longing to Play God

Both the world and the Bible tell us our inner needs will never be satisfied. This is bad news. Hate – the unwillingness to relinquish our own judgement – gives rise to the desire to be God. Hate intensifies our desire for vengeance.

None of us strictly adheres to “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” when we are hurt. From childhood, we hear, “If he kills one of mine, I’ll kill his whole family,” or, “If he harms me for a moment, I’ll hurt him for a lifetime.” Our desire for vengeance comes from a place of hate, not justice; it does not come from the heart of a plaintiff, but from our desire to be judge.

After Cain killed his brother Abel in Genesis, God punished Cain, but prevented personal vengeance. Cain was fearful, saying, “Whoever finds me will kill me.” The Lord set a mark of grace on Cain, saying, “If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.”

Cain deserved to die – wasn’t this unfair? Although God proclaimed that the right of vengeance was in his hands, he delayed this right, placing a mark of grace on Cain. In Cain’s line, the delayed judgment was carried out in the Great Flood. But in the lineage of Seth, the mark of grace continued until the time of Christ.

In 2 Samuel 13, David’s children are involved in a similar scene. David’s son, Amnon, raped his own half-sister, Tamar. As king, David should have taken justice into his own hands. But he loved only Amnon, and did not punish him. Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, stood up to take justice into his own hands, killing Amnon.

Our desire for vengeance comes from a place of hate, not justice.

I’m sure some, both Christians and friends of the gospel, think Absalom did nothing wrong. As father and king, David did nothing. Yet Absalom was wrong to kill Amnon. The Lord says, “Vengeance is mine, and retribution.”

The Good News

The bad news is that our needs will never be satisfied. What is the good news? God will repay all wickedness. This is the good news for our lives. When repayment has not yet occurred, God requires us to forgive our enemies because of our faith in him.

Now, Jesus further requires us to love our enemies because we believe he will repay all wickedness. This creates a tension between repayment of sins and love of enemies. How can both be possible?

God will repay all wickedness. This is the good news for our lives. When repayment has not yet occurred, God requires us to forgive our enemies because of our faith in him. Now, Jesus further requires us to love our enemies because we believe he will repay all wickedness.

We look to God. Although Christians have believed him for 2,000 years, we have still not seen justice served! He asks us to give up our desire for revenge and love our enemies. He wants us to believe that he will repay all wickedness and will show us his love through its repayment. Then we will see: love for enemies is also repayment of sin.


Wang Yi is a Chengdu pastor who was arrested on December 9, 2018, as part of a crackdown focused on his church, Early Rain. He was sentenced to nine years in December of 2019, and is currently in prison.  

Pray for Chinese Christians to have supernatural strength to forgive and love their enemies.

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Further Reading

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Chengdu: Discipleship in Difficult Times
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Moses in the Wilderness 2: A Reflection of Christ
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Chengdu: Opportunities and Challenges
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With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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