Question of the Week: Sympathy for the Devil?

On February 6th, 2018, The Mentionables received this question from Lewis R. via Facebook:

"As Christians we are told to love our enemies. Satan is our enemy. Should we love Satan?"
Franz Stuck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Franz Stuck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Here are the answers from the Mentionables team:

This answer is from Mentionable team member, Joel Furches to see the answer from Network Member Marc Lambert, scroll below.

Of course there is not a reasonable Christian alive who would answer this question in the affirmative. Asked insincerely, all this question is trying to do is to point out a flaw or inconsistency in Biblical theology. Asked sincerely, the questioner is most likely just wondering how we get around this commandment in the case of Satan.

There are two things one must understand in terms of this command to love one’s enemy. The first thing is that the command comes out of a certain economy of the New Testament. Consider the parables of Jesus wherein a servant is forgiven by his master of a large debt, then refuses to forgive a fellow servant of a small debt. He is thereafter punished because he did not treat his fellow servant with the same magnanimity as was shown to him. In the epistles, Paul tells slaves to render good service to their masters and masters to render good treatment to their slaves. The reason? The two were both accountable to God, and were equal in status to God who is “no respecter of persons” - meaning he does not value any one person as superior to any other. All are equal in his eyes. Paul says that under the new covenant of Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female.”

When Jesus says that a person should love their enemy, he finishes the sentence by saying “that you may be sons 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.”

One should love one’s enemies because in God’s eyes all people are of equal value, and are accountable to Him for their treatment of one another. If a person is unjust toward another person, but the victim is kind toward the oppressor, God will render justice toward the one and favor toward the other. If the one takes revenge for their bad treatment, they are now both at fault in the eyes of God.

This is a matter of equivalency. Humans are humans and each human is as valuable as the other. But Satan isn’t human, is he? A person is under no obligation to love, pray for or serve an angelic or demonic being – a being who is in no way equivalent to a human.

In fact, one could easily ask just how one would go about loving Satan in the first place? Jesus gave explicit examples of loving one’s enemy: such as caring for them when they are in need of care, or lending them one’s cloak, or walking with them an extra mile and so on. The command to love one’s enemy is the exact same command as to love one’s neighbor – it means to do kindnesses to that person (no matter how unkind the person is in return). In point of fact, it is impossible to love Satan in this respect as there is literally no kindness one could perform for Satan. The proposition is a nonsensical one.

So no. The Christian is under no obligation to love Satan for many reasons, not least of which is that it is not even physically possible to do so.

This answer is from Mentionable Network Member Marc Lambert

Short answer: No.

Long answer:

I think to really get at this question we would need to know a few things. What is the definition of "love" at play in the "love your enemies" verse? And what is meant by those who are our "enemies"? Is Satan an "enemy" in the same manner intended in the verse?

“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?" (Matthew 5:43-46)

When Christians are commanded to love, the connotation is selflessness. A placing of other people as being more valuable than your personal feelings or desires. It is not just a well wishing or thinking good thoughts. It is a conscious willful act of seeking the other person's good. In the reference in Matthew 5, Jesus puts the comment in contrast to hating your enemy. It was commonly understood to be right that you wish for (and even seek to obtain) misfortune to befall those who mistreat and harm you. So if we flip the script as Jesus seems to be doing, the opposite is that you would wish well for them, even behaving in a way that benefits them.

It is then pointed out that God gives certain blessings to everyone openly and without condition, and so should we. As Paul puts it in Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." A sentiment Jesus hammers on quite often.

OK, so does this apply to Satan?

No, for at least 2 reasons I can think of:

1. Our obligation to love our fellow man is rooted in our shared identity as being made in the Image of God. That cannot be said for other creatures. This is the reason why it is ok to eat animals but not humans. This is why that, although we don't act towards animals with cruelty in our hearts, we can use them as beasts of burden and euthanize them, if needed. The same is not allowed for humans. Likewise, Satan and other demonic being are not created in the image of God. While certainly awe-invoking, fearsome and powerful, they do not share the intrinsic worth and value as those created in the Image of God. Our obligation to them is more along the lines of animals.

 

2. While I guess it wouldn't be bad for us to have a heart that wished blessing and grace for everyone, even the fallen angels, I do not think that it is possible in a practical sense to act out that sentiment. Human being have free will and a shot at redemption and new life through Christ. Satan is who and what he is, and that ain't about to change. So, in keeping with the comparison from point (1) above, trying to act lovingly toward Satan would be akin to trying to act loving toward a rabid dog. Sure he may have been a great friend before, but now there's nothing to be done. You avoid or defend against, even put him down if you can, but no amount of loving gestures will have any effect on him. And so it is with Satan. The Bible says we are to defend and resist him, and await the day when God will put him down, never to trouble us again.

But loving? No.

Loving is not something we are commanded to do, or should seek to do, in regards to Satan or any other evil or demonic forces.