Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blessed Enemies

“‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you 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?’” (Matthew 5:43-46)

Many people who read these words of Jesus refer immediately to Hitler or Osama bin Laden and think, “It’s impossible and irrational, thus I am completely exempt from the command to love my enemies.” But God is not necessarily asking us to start at the post-graduate level. He is willing for us to start in kindergarten, loving close ones that might occasionally feel like “enemies” – family members, friends, church members, coworkers, neighbors – people who hurt us, disappoint us, insult us, ungratefully use us, disrespect us or upset us in various ways that leave us feeling wounded, angry, bitter, unforgiving and not very loving at all.

Even as believers in Jesus, our natural response to “enemies” is a negative emotion combined with Scriptural principles showing how wrong they are, accompanied by thoughts or even prayers that they should be punished and we should be vindicated for their violations, possibly followed by words or actions, later followed by bitter mental replays, perhaps eventually followed by forgiveness and loving feelings again. Until the next time.

There is a better way.

Without counseling about all situations and proper responses, let me offer Jesus’ command as a before, during and after approach in every case. He has been teaching me how He works through this command, and although I am a very slow learner I can attest that He is faithful.

Perhaps this will motivate you as it has me:

“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.’” (Matthew 5:7-9)

My vastly most important relationship is with Him. I want to experience the two-way love relationship that He desires. I want His blessing and mercy even though I am weak. I want to know what is in His thoughts toward me. I want a pure heart so I can see Him more and more clearly, understanding and delighting in His ways and being astonished at His power in my life. I want peace in my heart and, as much as possible, peace in my circumstances. I want to be radiant as a child of God reflecting His character. I stumble, but I want to keep looking up and knowing that He is near.

This intimacy with Him is possible only because He first loved me while I was still His enemy. Christ even willingly died to remove the sin barrier and bring me into a love relationship with Him. His grace drew me in (more like knocked out and dragged, in my case). His sacrifice for me was also for my enemies.

More and more, I am coming to understand how my failure to immediately love and bless and kindly pray for my enemies actually burdens my relationship with the Lord. So, even if they are truly bad and never change for the better, I must be willing to live out Jesus’ command and trust Him to work supernaturally in surprising ways that I could never achieve through the other pattern. He wants me to be pure in heart so I can see Him.

Blessing and praying for my enemies with His love becomes an act of lifting them up to the cross upon which He already died as the sufficient blood sacrifice for them, placing them in His care, tenderly asking for His grace and mercy to be operative in their lives, freeing them from bondage that they cannot escape in any other way. By committing to love and bless and pray like this, trusting Him, and trying though failing and trying again, I have seen Him work – really work.

I suspect that He was always willing to work in the case of my enemies, but the hard part was my own heart.

“‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’” (Matthew 5:5)


Anonymous said...

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plumfield's jo said...

Good job, Leslie. I'm impressed with your writing and have been being refined in this ongoing process. :) It is an interesting thing how He knows all along what we need, how we need to think and be, but it takes us so long to get in step and when we do, we discover it was all for our good once again. He knows, He supplies. If only we'd turn from our own wisdom to His.

A big area lately for me has been in the area of forgiveness... what it is and is not... what His desired response is. Interesting. The knowledge, love, patience, etc. that the Creator has concerning and for His created is beyond comprehension. Oh to be a more yielding clay in the Potter's hand.