Love Your Enemy… What?

6 04 2013

This has to be one of the craziest commands Jesus ever gave. You want me to what? And just how am I supposed to be able to do that?

Let me turn your thoughts in another direction for a moment – give you a chance to breathe!

If you have children, you know that they are near and dear to your heart. Did you ever wonder why? They show up without a stitch on, no job, hungry as all get out, and completely helpless. When they arrive, it is assumed that you will house, feed, clothe, teach, and care for their every need.

In exchange, what are they going to do? Cry, demand you get up at all hours of the night to feed them or change their messy diaper, and insist that you figure out what their problem is (I would have designed them with indicator lights on their foreheads!). Within the year, they’ll be getting into everything and generally trashing the house. God, in His wisdom, made them cute so we’d tolerate this stuff. A full grown adult who behaved like this wouldn’t last five minutes in my house!

For eighteen years, much of our lives are geared toward their health and welfare. Not one day goes by that we don’t spent time thinking about them, planning for them. I don’t know about you, but parenthood for me (with 7 kids) took up a lot of mental energy.

Because they are on our minds so much, we love them. We genuinely care about them – even when they’re being absolutely rotten. In fact, it’s when they’re at their worse that we are at our finest – looking for ways to win them back to the right path.

Then they grow up, get married (or not), and get on with life. When you talk with them, you notice that your warm, gushy sentimentality and deep love for them does not seem to be reciprocated. Yeah, they’re affectionate, but it’s at a different level.

This disturbed me until I realized that it should be this way. The object of raising kids is to bring them to the place where they can live independent of Mom and Dad, but fully dependent upon Jesus. Do this and you’ve succeeded – no matter what messes they make of their lives for a season!

All that to say this:

If we are going to love our enemies, we need to carefully read – and then apply – Matthew 5:44. It reads, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

You may not realize it, but parenthood trained you to do these things!

Imagine the struggle with your enemy as being in its “infancy” stage to begin with. What they said or did is a lot of noise in your mind. It keeps you up some nights while you try to figure out what the problem is. No indicator lights here,either! The thoughts that overwhelm you are messy and stink – way more than a dirty diaper.

Sometimes they totally trash your life and it takes a lot of work to straighten things up again. Unfortunately, they aren’t cute, and we won’t be cuddling them anytime soon. They aren’t “our” responsibility (Am I my brother’s keeper?), and we kick them to the curb. No “toddler” enemies allowed.

If we don’t follow through with the actions Jesus gave us, this enemy will rule our lives indefinitely. Thankfully, He gave us clues as to how to carry this out:

“Bless those who curse you.”

I hate you. 

I’m sorry to hear that dear, because Mommy loves you. (You had this conversation with at least one of your kids, didn’t you?)

“Do good to those who hate you.”

Our kids may be rebelling, but we still feed, clothe, and care for them. Sometimes what is “good” doesn’t feel very good – like discipline for unacceptable behavior. They hate us at the time, but we carry through because we care very much about what kind of adult this child will eventually become. We need to care about what kind of person our enemy has become, as well.

Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. What child doesn’t do these things to one extent or another? One thing I know for sure, the more time I spend talking to Jesus about someone, the more He lets me see His heart for them. He reveals things about them that I didn’t know. Usually it is their own brokenness that He shows me – enter compassion and empathy!

So you see, it’s not that we can’t love our enemies. It’s that we won’t.

When it comes to loving my enemies, I’m still a work in progress. I’ve had enemies that I thought it would be impossible to love. As I follow the “steps” (in no particular order – it’s not A, then B, then C) as Jesus gave them, I discover that my heart is softening toward them.

Like children, this person who once was my enemy will not have all the warm affection for us that I feel for them. They’ve probably not given me another thought. Their focus is on their life, not mine.

I don’t necessarily want all of them back in my life – with some it would neither be safe nor wise – but I don’t want to live life with their “stinky diaper” smelling up my life and tainting other relationships. I find that when I develop a parent’s attitude toward them: encouraging when I can, speaking kind words in response to their vitriolic humor or cutting remarks, and praying for them daily, there comes a day when the situation has matured and had its full effect.  Even if they never change – I win!  I walk away a better person for the ordeal…a little more like Jesus.

To love our enemies is certainly not easy – but it’s not impossible, and well worth the effort.

 

 

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