Loving an enemy. Hum. Who is our enemy?
“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 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
Thank goodness at the dusk of nightfall we can put the day to rest. Tomorrow is a new beginning. Thank you Lord for a fresh start.
Nighttime can be a time of great evaluation, it can be painful. It can also be a truth experience that leaves us unresolved. Each day has it’s own pain, joy, and journey. I have often said that when my head hits the pillow at night is when the greatest honesty comes out. I might think I am hiding my head in the pillow but really, when I am in the pillow is when I am most alone with myself that my life.
Today I am pondering some unforgiveness in my heart. I have heard “love your enemies” in Scripture all of my Christian life and maybe even before. I have often thought about the call on the Christian’s life to heed this concept. But I never really understood many of the implications that God brings with His challenge for us to love one another, yes even our enemies.
I recently experienced a situation where this passage was illuminated brighter than I could have imagined. It was one of those “aha” moments that blew my mind away.
In 2005 I encountered a group of people that upset my entire world. They interrupted the foundation of my life. Their actions brought about huge consequences that were very difficult to overcome. To some degree there was a lasting impact that is not even completely resolved today. This group was led by a man whom at the time I referred to as my “Enemy”. From what I went through it appeared he was seemingly trying to destroy my very soul.
A few months after the main thrust of this attack my enemy requested a meeting with me. I very reluctantly agreed to the meeting figuring this may get him off of my back. With a second person for support we met in my office for about an hour. I found the meeting to be quite surprising because I saw something in this man that I had not seen previously. I saw a human being who had a heart and a soul. He shared some very vulnerable things about his life which were surprising to me. I responded with an open heart towards him since he seemed to be so open and honest himself.
From this meeting something inside of me began so shift. Several months later he came back into my world through attending a ministry meeting I was leading. He was kind, and socially friendly. I found it easier to be around him this time.
Through his coming to another ministry meeting and a series of casual meetings with him it became clear that there was a connection being built between us that didn’t seem so negative. Feeling caught off guard, I was growing from my interaction with him. He was teaching me things that were interesting and valuable to me.
Now, over five years later, we are working on projects and enjoying the time we spend together. He and I were sitting in my office the other day and we were talking about the events in 2005. I described him using the term “enemy” and something blew through my brain like it came from heaven! The scripture above, “love your enemies” ran around my head. I looked at my friend in the middle of my amazing revelation and directly and said:
“I can’t imagine using the term “enemy” in describing you anymore. You are my friend”
He smiled and nodded in agreement. I think it might have been a little uncomfortable for him to hear that. This was his response to our meeting:
“Hey John. Had a good time yesterday. I am continually excited and feel more and more enriched as more of the evolution of our friendship becomes clear in the ways we’ve affected one another. So cool!”
After our meeting I pondered the concept of loving your enemies and found that God had led me through an amazing life lesson. I wondered if what God had in store for us is that if we can learn to love our enemies, we may find new friends who will teach us things growing lessons of life. I also thought about another scriptural principle that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against principalities in the heavens. When I looked back at that day so long ago, I started out thinking I was fighting against a man who was leading a group. I didn’t want to talk to him and wished he would just vacate my life. He was my enemy.
My convictions haven’t changed about the issues that brought us into a battle. I am not sure his have either. We haven’t lived with an agenda to try to change one another. We haven’t made a project of one another out of our time together. I have tried most of all to seek to know him and what he finds important about life.
Today, I really like this guy. He is gracious, kind, thoughtful and faithful. He is a servant, a giver, and loves people. He thinks deeply, he is intensely creative, loves his family and follows convictions that are significant to his life values. Ultimately, no matter what his qualities are, he is human and loved by God. It is my responsibility to battle with spiritual principalities in a heavenly way and to learn to love people, even if they appear to be enemies. I have a new name for the seeming enemy of my life years ago, it is Friend.
“This sounds great John, but I am still holding onto resentments and some remain as an enemy to me.”
I completely understand. I can’t let this article go without being honest about the process. Last night I had a dream that centered on unforgiveness that I am holding onto. I was fraught with turmoil as I held someone at bay with my hurt and disappointment. I wanted them to pay for what they had done to hurt me. My dream included a situation and people that I haven’t been able to love as yet. I still view them with hurt and self protection. I feel a need to be vindicated. At times I want to get them back for the way I have felt hurt by them. I see them as enemies. I certainly can’t feel the “love” between us.
There are some enemies that are more on the periphery of our lives. They may have just offended our standards, or crossed over a line with something that is important to us. They can be a little easier to transition from attack to respect. But what about those who have wounded our soul, invaded our hearts in such a way as to leave torn places. I believe these are hardest to learn to love.
And yet, God is big enough to love us through it and to love them in the midst of whatever may be going on in their lives. So, even in the most painful places, I can trust that God loves them even when I can’t. He forgives them when I am holding unforgiveness in my heart towards them.
What a wonderful thing to trust in a Savior who can love in ways I can’t, who can forgive when I can’t. I am so thankful for a Savior that loves me even in my bitter soul. He is at work in me in the deepest parts of my life. He is restoring my soul and I trust Him in that.