Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Trouble Loving My Enemies

Do you have someone in your life that is difficult to be around because of some negative aspects to their personality? For you, this might be an acquaintance you’re forced to bump into every so often, a coworker, a friend’s girlfriend (or boyfriend), or even someone who frequents the same Starbucks as you at the same times. That one person could be described as rude, overbearing, mean and nasty, or may even touch on the verge of hateful. I have such a person in my life; a person who easily fits into the descriptions listed above.

I say all of this, and it really does sadden me that I have this kind of relationship with this person. Someone who acts this way cannot be called my friend, and I don’t think it a stretch to recognize that this person is my enemy. Not by choice – I don’t think I would choose to ever have an enemy with a fellow human being. Yet I find myself at odds with this person on a regular basis and for no good reason. The amount of thought and energy I have spent to try and understand why this individual treats me so is beyond me, and I am at my wits end.

Today I found myself praying to God: “God, why does so-and-so hate me without cause?” Then again: “God, I need Your help if I am to truly love my enemy.”

That is my goal today. To focus on what it means to love an enemy and how this can be done.

During my internal battle (and it is a terrible onslaught of a war) the Holy Spirit brought to mind our Lord’s statement from the Sermon on the Mount:
“43You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 44But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB).
Once having read this passage the Holy Spirit would never again let me off the hook with my enemies =). It seems clear to me from the earlier context of this chapter that we are not to let folks take advantage of us simply because we are Christians, and yet from these verses we are required to love those who would try to. This is very much the circumstance that I find myself in. A person I am forced to interact with on a consistent basis who treats me poorly, though unprovoked. How am I to respond to such treatment, and what is my responsibility as a Christian?

Beyond doubt, you can rest assured that I am to not be taken advantage of. Any amount of kindness or compromising should not include being walked all over, or slapped around. Rather, as Jesus provides a handful of unique examples, we may use creative means to bring out the shame in what they are trying to do to us without crossing a line, thus behaving sinfully like our enemies. My remaining sin would love it if our responsibilities ended there, because I could then rejoice at justice being done, without sinning, but not … “going the extra mile” … as it were =).

We are not only to avoid abuse or creatively point out sinfulness, I believe we are to love those trying to do these things to us. This does not simply mean an emotion – although an element of understanding and compassion should be at play here. After all, we would act no differently apart from God’s free grace! We are to truly love our enemies. This is what I find a difficult task: I must not become like my enemy. I am not permitted at any point to hate this person in my heart, thus becoming a murderer in God’s eyes. I cannot attempt to harm this person’s reputation, though this has been attempted by this person. I certainly cannot treat my enemy poorly.

Above all this, I am to do good to my enemy! Even when I know it might be shoved back in my face, I am to do good to this person. The thought of doing this does not please me in the slightest. Why do you think that is? Iiii think it’s because deep down in my innermost being I don’t believe my enemy deserves to be treated well by me. There it is. There it is. My true thoughts and intents are revealed there, and this is one reason why I struggle in loving this enemy. Isn’t it the point that none of us deserve grace – that is what makes grace … grace. It’s free. It can’t be earned. Grace is undeserved.

Since I received free grace from the Lord God, not because of anything in me, then shouldn’t I do likewise for others?

God’s Holy Spirit brought one other verse to mind:
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18, NASB).
The scenario that the Apostle Paul describes here is a possible scenario (“if”), but is a noble goal, nonetheless. “So far as it depends on me” Christians are to be at peace with everyone. The question then is: Have I done everything I can to make peace with my enemy? Up to this point, God has not ordained that I get along with this person, which may mean there isn’t anything I can do to gain my enemy’s favor. However, this does not mean that I should not try everything to make peace. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Thanks for reading ya'll,

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