The command to love our enemies is one of the most well-known in the Bible. However, there appear to be passages that teach the opposite. How are we to address these?
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
On the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus tells His audience to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. However, the author of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible thinks that this may not be the full picture. In fact, it appears that the Bible directly contradicts this famous instruction. Can this claim of contradiction stand under scrutiny?
The vast majority of the verses the SAB cites to support its claim are from the poems in Pslams. Needless to say, a book of proverbial literature does not intend to be a book of absolute moral instruction. David voices many, many harsh words towards his enemies in the Psalms but the difference lies in the genre and his reason for voicing such thoughts. In one instance, we have a broken man voicing his frustrations and desires in writing (see link 1 below for more on this), in the other we have a morally binding command. We’re comparing apples with oranges and the author offers no support for his assumptions.
The author also cites Lamentations and we offer the same answer. It’s a poetic book based around the trauma experienced by the Kingdom of Judah at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army. It is completely normal to find a vengeful remark in a book that explores the nature of lament.
Further along, the author cites 1 Corinthians 16:22. This is a passage I have addressed elsewhere (see link 2 below) but I’ll offer some quick thoughts here. The particular curse Paul describes here is anathema. This has less to do with the kind of curse we picture in Snow White and more to do with excommunication. Loving our enemies does not mean that we cannot distance ourselves from them or cut off close ties. If there are truly toxic people in your life, loving them does not mean tolerating cruel or deceptive behaviour. We can pray for them, pick them up when they reach for help, and hope the best for them without partaking in close and loving fellowship (my further thoughts on this can be found in link 3 below).
Finally, the author cites the closing words of the parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19, where the ruler says,
But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (Luke 19:27).
In this parable, the ruler orders those who refuse to obey his authority to be condemned. This is no anger from a petty argument or a personal injustice, these are people who disobey the law and his authority and feel the least bit repentant for it. When Christ comes back to reign He will destroy His enemies and those who refuse to change from their ways with a hand of justice. (Revelation 19:11-15) Love towards our enemies does not erase the need for justice.
This all goes to show that sources like the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible are simply not useful in regards to Biblical studies. I do not reject it for being atheistic nor do I fault it for being written by an atheist. It should be rejected because it does not teach readers how to read the Bible or how to think for themselves. It tells you what it thinks a particular verse means, it expects you to take it at face value, and it never gives literary or contextual support for its interpretation. It also hopes (rather insultingly) that you’d ignore what is plainly obvious (i.e. its pick in Lamentations).