What does the Bible say about enemies?
Our highest calling as Christians is to love God and our neighbors. Many people believe that when the Bible says “love your neighbor,” it means we should love our family, friends, acquaintances, and possibly a few strangers. Still, the command extends to those outside of our immediate circle and, more importantly, to our enemies. Therefore, we are not immune from loving others, including our adversaries.
Unbelievers are not bound to such concerns, they are free to hate Anyone, but they are not free from the consequences of their hate. God knows that hate destroys our lives and separates us from a relationship with him. Therefore, what He requires of us is never comfortable as it goes against our flesh as God attempts to center our thoughts and ways on our spirit.
Below we will discuss the many aspects of what the Bible says about enemies and how to approach them God’s way, not our way. From coping with enemies to determining who are your enemies and much more, get answers to all of your questions so you can better serve God.
Christian quotes about enemies
“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” Robert Murray McCheyne
“We may not be able to prevent other people from being our enemies, but we can prevent ourselves from being enemies toward others.” Warren Wiersbe
“The Christian will be sure to make enemies. It will be one of his objects to make none; but if doing what is right and believing what is true should cause him to lose every earthly friend, he will regard it as a small loss, since his great Friend in heaven will be even more friendly and will reveal Himself to him more graciously than ever.” Alistair Begg
“When a Christian walks irreprovably, his enemies have no where to fasten their teeth on him, but are forced to gnaw their own malignant tongues. As it secures the godly, thus to stop the lying mouths of foolish men, so it is as painful to them to be thus stopped, as muzzling is to beasts, and it punishes their malice. And this is a wise Christian’s way, instead of impatiently fretting at the mistakes or willful miscensures of men, to keep still on his calm temper of mind, and upright course of life, and silent innocence; this, as a rock, breaks the waves into foam that roar about it.” Robert Leighton
Our Enemy the Devil
Our final adversary in the process of sanctification is external, Satan, often known as the devil, and many other names (Job 1:6, 1 John 5:19, Matthew 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:4). He is a fallen angel who has rebelled against God and tried to enlist the help of others, making him the first to go against God, and he actively seeks to destroy and devour those who love God (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8). The devil is a real foe, despite the fact that many people in the West today dismiss him.
Next, we know there is a legion of demons who follow Satan‘s guidance (Mark 5:1–20), and if we are not prepared to recognize their work, we will be in grave spiritual danger. Not every foe we confront is possessed by a demon or the devil. Our flesh and the world have no shortage of ways to lure us to sin. However, Satan prowls the earth like a lion in search of prey, and we must be aware of how he and his forces frequently manifest themselves.
Satan and his demons hide what is wicked. They distort the facts to make lies sound believable to our ears in order to lead us into spiritual peril. Only the most astute Christians will be able to spot the devil at work. As a result, we must work to improve our “powers of discernment” by practicing to discriminate good from evil on a regular basis (Hebrews 5:14). We accomplish this through deepening our knowledge of biblical doctrine.
Do not assume that Satan appears disfigured or ugly; he is beautiful, which makes him all the more deceiving (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Instead, both Satan and his representatives show themselves as handsome, charming, and appealing individuals, and it is this charade that deceives and traps people into believing erroneous teaching. Christians can recognize the enemy and his tactics only from a position of biblical understanding and spiritual maturity.
1. 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
2. James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
3. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
4. 2 Corinthians 2:11 “in order that Satan should not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
5. Job 1:6 (KJV) “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.”
6. 1 John 5:19 (ESV) “We know that we are from God, and qthe whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
7. 2 Corinthians 4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
8. John 10:10 (NASB) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.”
9. Matthew 4:1 “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
How to overcome the Enemy?
Christians will confront many enemies as a result of their trust in Jesus Christ: “In reality, everyone who wishes to live a good life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12; John 15:18–19; 17:14). However, God does not leave us defenseless; we have a host of resources to defend ourselves against Satan and his horde of demons. Jesus came to give us relief from our enemies and from sin.
We can overcome Satan by giving God our concerns. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Instead of fiercely tossing your affliction back at God, humility tenderly and confidently returns every anxiety to him. If we are relying on God, then we are not relying on the world, and Satan has less ability to influence our lives.
We need to be strong in the Lord to gain strength over the great oppressor (Ephesians 6:10). Furthermore, we need to remember that God loves us and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and He has a plan to defeat Satan, which started on the cross (1 John 3:8, Colossians 2:14, John 12:31-32). God’s plan continues to work and will until He delivers the devil and his minions to their eternal damnation. First, though, we must choose to follow God (Matthew 19:27-30, John 10:27, Galatians 5:25).
Jesus says in John 12:26, “Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor Anyone who serves me.” Set your sights on God and not the enemy in order to follow Him and keep on the right path to resist the devil. In 1 Peter 2:21, we are told, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
Finally, remember we are not trying to overcome the enemy alone, this is God’s battle, not ours, and we are soldiers in His army waiting for instructions and ready to obey. Do this by following God and resisting the devil (James 4:7, Ephesians 4:27). We cannot overcome the devil on our own; God can and has a plan, so draw your strength from God (Ephesians 6:11), which you can do by spending time with God in prayer and reading the Word.
10. Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
11. Ephesians 6:13 “Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand.”
12. Revelation 12:11 (NKJV) “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
13. Ephesians 4:27 “and give no opportunity to the devil.”
14. 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
15. 1 Corinthians 15:57 “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
16. 1 Peter 2:21 “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
Dealing with your enemies
The Lord wants us to treat our enemies with kindness and charity, according to Proverbs 25:21–22: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. You will heap burning coals on his head as a result of this, and the LORD will recompense you.” This verse expresses the paradoxical kingdom reality that doing good to an adversary is the best way to cope with him. In the Bible, heaping flaming coals on someone’s head is a punishment term (Psalm 11:6; 140:10). The goal is that the person will feel guilty, regret his acts, and repent under the heat and pressure of applied compassion. Treating our enemies with kindness aims to bring them to a state of conviction about their wrongdoing and, as a result, causing them to repent and turn towards God.
Romans 12:9–21 explains that we can only overcome evil by love and goodness. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” The list goes on saying vengeance belongs to God, that we should live in harmony with one another, and that we cannot defeat evil with evil but by doing good. The scripture ends with, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” so that God can do his work without us jeopardizing his plans.
When we are wronged, our natural inclination is to revenge against those who have wronged us. However, Christians are forbidden to respond in this way. “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:39). Instead, we are to love our adversaries and pray for those who persecute us as Christians (Matthew 5:43–48). We defeat evil by doing good and defeat our adversaries by loving and treating them with respect and compassion.
17. Proverbs 25:21-22 “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. 22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
18. Romans 12:21 (NLT) “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
19. Proverbs 24:17 “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.”
20. Matthew 5:38-39 “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
21. 2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
The Lord Himself goes before you
Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Therefore, do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” The context for the verse follows the forty years in the wilderness with Moses and his people. Joshua was the one to take the people into the promised land with encouragement from God in the verse above.
Many may ask themselves if they can claim this verse for themselves when it was intended for Joshua. The answer is yes, and they should. How much more will God be with us through his Holy Spirit, whom he first promised and then gave to his Church, since he loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ? He has not abandoned us and will not abandon us. God is constant, and the promises to His people remain for all times.
In fact, God already went before us by sending Jesus to the cross. Furthermore, he provided the Holy Spirit to stay with us when Jesus returned to heaven, showing He would never leave or forsake us. Additionally, we do not need to be afraid because the Creator has a plan or discouraged because we know the plan!
22. Deuteronomy 31:8 “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
23. Deuteronomy 4:31 “For the LORD your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers, which He swore to them by oath.”
24. Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
25. Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
26. Romans 8:31 “What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
27. Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”
28. Psalm 118:6 “The LORD is on my side; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
29. Hebrews 13:6 “So we say with confidence: “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
30. Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
31. Psalm 44:7 “But You give us victory over our foes and let those who hate us be disgraced.”
Love your enemies
It is never easy to forgive our enemies, let alone to love them. However, God does not call us to an easy life but to a purposeful life, and that purpose requires us to different actions than those of the world. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
How to love our enemies will never be as easy as saying ‘I love my enemies.’ Love is not just a fleeting emotion; it’s an action we must choose to obey every day, starting by choosing to follow God and His commandments. Without God’s help, we cannot love our adversaries as the world tells us it’s okay to hate our enemies. Only through God will we be able to show sincere love.
Once you have shifted your way of thinking away from the world and line up with God’s way of thinking, He will provide you the means to love those you do not want to love. Mind you, love does not mean you need to be abused or stay around someone who means to harm you. It means you want good things to happen to them, such as eternal life in Heaven with God. Do not allow yourself to wish for harm to your enemies; instead, pray for God to help them as He helps you.
32. Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
33. Luke 6:27 “But to those of you who will listen, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
34. Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
35. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
36. Job 31:29-30 “If I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune or gloated over the trouble that came to him— 30 I have not allowed my mouth to sin by invoking a curse against their life.”
37. Proverbs 16:7 “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Forgive your enemies
We find a clear link between forgiveness and love in Christ. Because he loves sinners, God forgives them through Jesus. He shows love by giving us the rich inheritance acquired by Christ’s obedience and forgiveness. He bestows every spiritual blessing in Christ to those who are repentant and turn away from sin.
Every blessing we have in Christ is a gift from God, not something we earned or deserved (Ephesians 1:3–14). It would take an eternity to study how God’s forgiveness connects to his love, but there is a definite link. Similarly, followers of Christ forgive and love one another. The next step is equally difficult. We are to love the people we have forgiven actively. The gospel does not simply set us free because of God’s forgiveness but calls us to a higher purpose to serve God.
Forgiveness is a difficult concept to grasp. Even when we think we’ve forgiven someone who has wronged us, a seed of bitterness may stay deep within us. That seed’s fruit could appear at a later date. Instead, we need to imitate God by giving forgiveness as we also receive forgiveness.
Consider how you can bless someone you hate or even just stop wishing harm for them. Ask the Father to give you the ability to actively bless them with a heartfelt word, a small act of service, a practical gift, a lunch invitation—the possibilities are unlimited. Do not attempt this on your own; instead, pray that God gives you the strength to forgive others.
38. Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
39. Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
40. Mark 11:25 “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
41. Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and loving to each other. Forgive each other the same as God forgave you through Christ.”
42. Luke 23:34 “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
Pray for your enemies
Praying for someone you dislike will not be easy at first. Start by asking God to work within you and change your focus to His purposes instead of your purposes. Expect the process to take time, and do not rush it, as God will give you experiences to help you focus on Him instead of yourself. From there, make a list of the people you know you need to change your attitude about and start praying for them.
Start by praying for them to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9) so they can turn away from harmful ways to God. Next, pray to protect them from the devil as he can cause so much harm in their lives and, in turn to so many others. Finally, pray for divine justice as God knows every journey and decision this person has made and knows their needs far better than Anyone else.
43. Matthew 5:44 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are called to do more than the world will; we are called to God’s purpose.
44. Luke 6:28 “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
45. John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
46. Acts 7:60 “Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Examples of enemies in the Bible
Saul (later renamed Paul) was the most zealous persecutor of Christians in the first century because he hated them for their belief. He was good at what he did in the early church, threatening and murdering members (Acts 9:1-2), but the church’s top persecutor would eventually become probably the church’s greatest missionary. God opened Paul’s eyes to the truth, and he stopped persecuting those he hated and changed his life completely to become one of the greatest advocates for God.
A different Saul from the old testament was King David’s enemy. Saul’s jealousy overcame him as soon as he began to recognize David as potential competition, and he began to plot the assassination of David. Despite the fact that he twice thrust his spear at David while the young man was playing his lyre, David stayed in the king’s service. When these assassination attempts failed, Saul took David from the court and placed him in charge of a thousand Israelite troops, ostensibly to put David in danger. On the other hand, David was not only kept safe, but he also gained increased glory as a result of his war victories because the Lord was at his side (1 Samuel 18:6–16).
Jesus had enemies, too, specifically the Pharisees. His own people were often indifferent to him, but the Pharisees tried hard to dispute him at every turn. The religious authorities showed their hate by questioning Jesus because they were jealous of his growing flock. Additionally, Jesus exposed them before the people, which hurt their honor (Matthew 23:1-12). Lastly, the Pharisees were afraid of what they would have to change if they chose to believe in Jesus, and they punished Jesus for the change he brought. Read John chapter eight to see how.
47. Acts 9:1-2 “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”
48. Romans 5:10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
49. 2 Samuel 22:38 “I have pursued mine enemies, and destroyed them; and turned not again until I had consumed them.”
50. Psalm 59:1 “When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him. Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me.”
51. Deuteronomy 28:7 “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.”
The Bible teaches us to love our enemies and resist God’s enemy, Satan. We are called as Christians to a higher purpose and to go against the world’s way by following Jesus, who set the perfect example for believers. Keep in mind that the ability to love our enemies does not come about in our human nature; it comes from God’s divine power, and only through Him can we react the right way to our enemies. It starts with prayer and then to action, such as reading the Word and following the example Jesus set.