I was recently asked a great question that made me go away and think awhile.
The question is a simple one: Jesus tells us to love our enemies. The devil is our enemy. So does this mean we should love the devil?
Here's the answer I gave:
That’s a great question. Certainly the devil is called “our enemy” in 1 Peter 5:8.
Let me give several answers, starting with the simplest, getting progressively more involved.
Whenever the Bible says something, the words mean what the person who said / wrote them meant. So the question to ask is what Jesus meant when he told us to “love our enemies”. What enemies did he have in mind?
The simplest answer is that the people Jesus was talking to would assume he meant our fellow human beings.
A closer look shows that this is the case. Matthew 5:44 – “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.” Two observations here.
Firstly, another way of saying to love our enemies is to pray for those who persecute us. That makes perfect sense with our fellow human beings, but there is no meaningful way we could pray for the devil. What could we possibly want God to do for his benefit? Indeed, if we love God (and are “children of our Father in heaven”), why would we want the devil to benefit? The devil, after all, is only evil. He never does anything good, and only opposes God and his purposes, so his prosperity would mean harm to God’s name and reputation.
Second, Jesus illustrates how loving our enemies makes us like our heavenly Father. God doesn’t only give rain and sun to the good and righteous; those who oppose him also receive these kindnesses from him. It’s not Jesus’ point, but it does also show that he had in mind our fellow human beings. Angelic beings do not have bodies, and so do not receive sun or rain.
The other answer is to press a little harder what it means to “love” someone. God loves us in different ways. He loves us by sustaining our existence; he loves us by providing for our needs (such as sun and rain). These expressions of his love come to every human being without exception. But the Bible also speaks of God loving us in ways that only apply to his people: In love, he adopted us as his children (Ephesians 1:5). If we were being told to love the devil, on the grounds that God loves his enemies, we’d want to ask in what senses does God love the devil. Well, he sustains his existence, but that’s about it. He certainly doesn’t will the devil to come to repentance, since there is no way for the devil to repent and find forgiveness. (Jesus became a human, to save humans, but did not become an angel so cannot save angels – Hebrews 2:16-17. So, if the reason we love our enemies is because God loves his enemies, then this doesn’t apply to the devil in any way that meaningfully extends to us.
Lastly, we cannot separate the devil’s evil nature from his person. Human beings are made in God’s image, and no matter how sinful we are that remains the case. So no human being is entirely bad. And, in this life, no human being is beyond redemption. It is therefore possible to love even a very evil person, whilst hating the things they do. With the devil, that breaks down. As God is consistently and only good, so the devil is consistently and only evil. So to love him in any way is in some way to commit to his cause and to his values. If we love the devil, we love his evil nature to a degree, and that is to set ourselves against God rather than to be like him.
Please add your own thoughts in the comments. What else could I have said?