Why Should I Love My Enemies: Love Becomes the Object of Hate

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. Here, Wang Yi says that loving those who hate you is the highest and only real form of love. He shows us that God’s love toward us is the only pure form of love in the world. God loved us when we hated him. Because he loved us while we were God’s enemy, we can also be willing to suffer and “walk the road of the cross” and love our enemies as well.

This is the third installment in this series.  (Parts one and two 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

Jesus’s Unconditional Love

What did Jesus mean when he spoke of love?

We can contrast’s Christ concept of love with the modern religion of love, which loves only those who love you. We can also compare it with the self-love that motivates some religious expressions. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (v.44) Christ defined love as unconditional.

Loving your enemies is the ultimate form of love. It is love’s pinnacle, and shows how the essence of love is unconditional love. Jesus said that any conditional love which depends on someone else’s response is not real love. That type of love contradicts the definition he gave us himself.

Loving your enemies is the ultimate form of love. It is love’s pinnacle.

Because of this, we believe in God’s election and predestination. We are not saved because God foresaw how we would respond. God is different from humans, who react after an action is taken. For example, a husband starts being unpleasant to his wife. In response, she changes her pattern and also becomes unpleasant. But God, in eternity, knew your attitude would be poor before it even happened. Because he knew that, he predestined his attitude toward us.

Many people understand God’s election in this way: God is omniscient, so he knew beforehand whether we would believe in him. Based on this, he decided whether to love and save us. But is this foreknowledge different from a spouse who decides whether or not to love their partner based on how they are treated? There is no difference!


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According to the definition of love Jesus gives here, if God determined his attitude toward us based on our response, then what God gives is not love. But from God, we receive unconditional love: loving your enemies.

Let us again define love: Christ’s love is to love your enemies. Just loving those who love you is not real love. It can only be called true love if someone loves their enemy, who is then moved by and responds to such love. The source of true love must come from the One who loves enemies.

If you do decide to love your enemy, how should you go about it? What if you invite them to eat with you and they refuse? What then?

The most important question in your life and in the world is: are there people who love their enemies? If not, there is no love in the world. But if people like this exist, then the world does not need Jesus, for the world has its own gospel and can save itself. When Jesus says to “love your enemies,” he is correcting and overturning our definitions of love and our self-righteous self-image.

Jesus also throws out another question: if you acknowledge you cannot love your enemy, then what is the good news? Is there someone who loves you? To put it more simply: are you an enemy to someone? Who?

Jesus’s Love is Sacrificial and Substitutionary

Now let’s turn to the next question: how do you love your enemy?

Let’s assume that to love means loving your enemies. Love is sacrificial and substitutionary. If you do decide to love your enemy, how should you go about it? What if you invite them to eat with you and they refuse? What then?

The first step is to define what an enemy is. An enemy is someone who opposes love. This definition is somewhat paradoxical. “Love means loving one’s own enemy”: in this sentence, “love” is a noun, and “loving” is a verb. This sentence is a tongue twister. How can light love dark without becoming darkness itself? There is a song titled, “Day Doesn’t Know the Darkness of Night.” How can day love the darkness of night? How can the haves love the have-nots?

At its core, love is a form of substitution. Love is a sacrifice for, or on behalf of, its opposite. Love must become the object of hate.

Love is loving the opposite of love. At its core, love is a form of substitution. Love is a sacrifice for, or on behalf of, its opposite. Love must become the object of hate. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (v. 44)

When you say you have love, it means love must become the object of hate and of curses. Unless you are willing to be hated, you have not loved. This is the path of the cross. Unless you are willing to be hated, you cannot substitute for someone else.


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 experiencing persecution to remember that God loved them, even while they were still his enemies.

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
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Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
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Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

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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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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