Love Your Enemies

Can We Love Our Enemies?

Enemies

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:43-44)

How do I hate thee; let me count the ways.

From trash talking sports figures, to ex husbands and wives, to abortion or religious fundamentalists, to “those people,” how many enemies do we count on our own, personal list?

Seahawks’ Richard Sherman was vilified because, in the minutes after his amazing play and his team’s win of the Superbowl, he spoke boosted by the adrenaline rush of the win and the crowd. Not many people gave him grace for that, including a pastor I know, who publicly entered the fray by posting a nasty comment on Facebook. It was really a shame, because he could have used the moment to teach love and grace. He could have reminded us of Jesus’ words; he could have reminded us to extend mercy and pray. Sadly, it was a teachable moment lost.

Many Americans – Christians included – blindly support Israel and hate Palestinians. If any other country treated its citizens the way Israel treats Palestinians, we as Americans wouldn’t stand for it. Think I’m wrong? Read Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour.

Dahoud Nasser is a Christian living in isolation in Israeli occupied Palestine since the Israeli military has built a wall around his city and cut off water and electricity there. But at the entrance to his property line is a boulder with the inscription, “We Refuse To Be Enemies.” Dahoud’s Christian family has lived in Palestine since the first century, and lived in peace with his neighbors until the wall was erected.

In 2000, Nasser started Tent of Nations. His mission is “building bridges between people, and between people to the land.” At Nasser’s 100-acre farm located in the hills southwest of Bethlehem, Palestine, He holds conferences to bring people of various cultures together to “build bridges of trust and hope; understanding, reconciliation, and peace.” Dahoud is committed to Matthew 5:43-44.

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. (Proverbs 25:21)

Now this is extremely sensitive and possibly triggering territory.

How about the purveyors of sex trafficking and the pedophiles who use its victims? The worst, right?  Do any of us pray for these people? Do any of us pray that their eyes would be opened? That they would come to their senses and understand what they do is evil? Do any of us pray that they stop what they are doing walk away? Do any of us pray that they would turn their lives around, and help to rescue even one child from another perpetrator? Do any of us pray that they would take another abuser by the hand and lead him away from the terrible crime he is about to commit?

Think about it; when we wish evil for evil and retribution, who does that help? Who does that restore? How does it change the system? Does it save one more child from evil?

What are your thoughts on loving your enemy?

Also blogged on Mind’s Seat, www.marmarthunder.wordpress.com and

Harsh Reality http://aopinionatedman.com/2014/01/30/love-your-enemies/

To help the victims of sex trafficking, visit the following sites:

Red Window Project

Stop The Traffik

33 thoughts on “Love Your Enemies

  1. Prior to being a preschool teacher, I worked for our judicial system where I would hear every detail of a criminal or domestic case, including child molestation. I finally stopped reading the probable cause – I didn’t want to know the details anymore. I didn’t WANT to hear the ‘reasons’ the defendant gave for his/her horrible actions. It was too much for me, and filled my heart with anger, disappointment, and sadness! How God does it, I’ll never comprehend, but I’m thankful that he continues to love us AND forgive us – regardless of our mistakes. What an example…

    • Only God can give us the grace to open our hearts in that way, and we must be willing to let Him. It’s difficult, but a very wise and compassionate teacher told me that we are all sinners, and to remember, “there but for the grace of God go I.” We are all broken vessels – some irreparably so, but we are all vessels that God created. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

  2. What more can be said?

    I am not sure. However, I personally don’t have enough time for enemies.

    There are some who, in recent years, have gone out of their way to become my enemies. I can only guess that they view me as their enemy. The only way not to perpetuate this situation is to let contact with them die off. Not from an abrupt severing of contact, but through a slightly overt showing of indifference every time a person tries to provoke outrage or some other equally strong reaction.

    That eventually leads them to ridicule my personality as weak. After a time, I do not even hear that. Suffice to say that I have no time for such negativity. Eventually, those who would want to be my enemies quit bothering and I am allowed to continue unhindered.

  3. Loved your post! I was able to extend love to my enemies only after I learned how to extend love to myself. I now see how we are connected and how my enemies shine a spotlight on the rather questionable aspects of my own personality.

  4. Hatred is such a strong emotions – and so very consuming. The irony of it is – the focus of our hatred never really seems to affect the WHATEVER it is directed at – but instead it grows nasty thorns inside of us. (not that this is about doing what is good for US but more about what is good for the world and others – but it is a point to consider – as I am POSITIVE you know!)

    Still a good read second time through.
    I Do occasionally get lost for words – and need to find PATIENCE to wait for them…. :D

  5. It doesn’t take much for a pedophile to cause irreparable damage to a child, emotionally more than physically in many cases. Short of a miraculous intervention from God above, I can’t see that they can or even want to change and in fact, they don’t. Because they want to keep doing it. This has been the biggest challenge for me to forgive them for what they do. Why is it so much harder for them to have restraint over their foul urges than for others who have their own sinful urges? To me, harming a child in this way is the worst sin and I have to really come before the Lord and ask for His mercy and grace in helping me forgive, again and again. Only He can do this.

    Praying for retribution and revenge is certainly not the answer, you are so right Susan. Giving them to God to deal with in His way is the only way I can handle this and I pray that I can find a way to truly forgive as I will be honest, I struggle greatly with this when I know that so much has been stolen and the terrible repercussions that are the result of someone else’s utter selfishness and depravity.

    Yet, I know this, the Lord’s mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness, and He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten. We do indeed have to keep praying for our enemies, but without the love of God in our hearts it is impossible. Thank you for this very brave post Susan, and God bless you mightily my dear friend and sister x

  6. Another thoughtful post, Susan. The good Samaritan is the “go to” story in the Bible to know how Jesus would have us treat others, especially our enemies. Of course, in every nation there are diverse cultures that battle one another because of differences but the hardest to overcome is the enemies that are more personal and harmful to us as was explained in a previous comment. It is difficult for us to be forgiving but not impossible. I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. xoxo

  7. Interesting post, sister. Your post reminds me of Isaiah 58 … It says there

    If you remove the yoke from your midst,
    The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
    And if you give yourself to the hungry
    And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
    Then your light will rise in darkness
    And your gloom will become like midday.
    “And the Lord will continually guide you,
    And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
    And give strength to your bones;
    And you will be like a watered garden,
    And like a spring of water whose waters do not [h]fail.
    “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
    You will raise up the age-old foundations;
    And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
    The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” (9b-12)

    Let’s pray we are bold to take care of the hurt He placed before us. I pray He will help us turn our words to deeds and help us to love the way Christ loves.

    Thanks, sister!

    • Heidi, you totally get what I’m saying here. Thank you for this Scripture; it’s perfect! You are such a blessing! I keep saying that discipleship is a lifelong process. It’s not that any of us are perfect, yet we need to continue to be yoked in our walk with Jesus so that at the end of our days, we look a lot more like him than we did at the start. On my last day, I want to look back and see that my love grew into everything it was destined to be. Bless you for your comment.

  8. I think, as the saying goes, we can reject the sin while accepting the sinner. I think Christ was able to love his enemies, but few of us are He. I think it is unreasonable to ask ordinary human beings to love someone who has committed atrocities. I don’t believe in capital punishment but I do believe people need to be held accountable for their behavior. We don’t need to associate with those who would harm us and we don’t need to give in to revenge or wishing them harm. That is about where I stand on this issue. And God said we don’t have to do anything else, as ‘vengeance is His’. But he also said something along the lines of ‘render unto Caesar, what is Caesar’s’, so I am content for the law to take care of Caesar’s domain.

    As for bridging the divide, you cannot shake hands with someone who offers only a closed fist. Spend one’s time on those whose hand is held out, open, in welcome.

    My two cents worth …

    • Praying for someone doesn’t negate accountability at all. IMHO, the only way to truly transform someone’s thinking, behavior, heart, closed fist is to offer undeserved grace. It’s perhaps the most difficult thing in the world to do, and none of us are Jesus. I’m simply calling us to higher ground.

      • No, certainly not, I agree. But, forgiving everyone everything is just superhuman. There are evil-doers, to use a popular phrase. Wherever that evil comes from, demons or otherwise, their actions cross the bounds of normalcy or common human foibles and enter the realm of the depraved. In those instances, while I use both my Catholic upbringing of forgiveness and charity, as well as prayer and invocation, I also call upon my training as a psychologist to try and understand the origin of this behavior and decide what the appropriate responsive action is. Sometimes these people are just to be avoided and removed from interaction. I try to pray for those who are in my concentric circles. But, for example, I would see no reason for me to pray for a Hitler or Bin Laden. I will leave that to the Almighty to adjudicate.

      • And I’m certain He will in His own way. Evil does exist in its most abhorrent forms, I agree with you. I’m not saying I have the personal wisdom or strength to pray for a Hitler or an Idi Amin, but do pray for the Spirit to lead my thoughts and prayers in the right direction.

        I’m not a psychologist and don’t pretend to understand or discern whether someone is pure evil or they can be redeemed. I just think too many of us stand in judgment when we might be standing in the way of God’s extended hand.

        I’d much prefer He shove me aside to save someone I think isn’t worth saving than to have me be a stumbling block. Am I making any sense?

      • Absolutely. Understood. I would never want God to turn his back on anyone. I just don’t want to be the one to have to forgive the unforgivable, from a human standpoint. I see people whose loved ones have been brutally murdered, struggling to forgive the killer and I think that is far too much stress for most people. People need to own their true feelings. Certainly, I am not a vengeful person and have never ever wanted to see harm befall anyone. I take the view that everything can be explained, whether at the mundane or extra-worldly level. But I also understand the human mind and nature from a scientific point of view as well as an historic vantage point. I believe we have to be true to who we are, all the while striving to progress and reach our highest potential. One needs to grieve, to be justifiably angry, to see one’s feelings, not shut them down. Once we can observe ourselves, we can heal and transform. One should always ask for higher guidance in this – that is the role of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent us to help with this task. But, we cannot try to be superhuman. We will only repress normal emotions and thoughts that way and fool ourselves into thinking we have risen above them. Imho :-)

  9. God is love – what He hates is sin. He knew it wouldn’t be easy to love and so He told us what love is – and He told us to be like Him…we have to separate sin from the sinner but it’s not something that comes naturally to us. It can be done though and just like we exercise faith so I believe we need to exercise love… a beautiful, thought provoking post Susan.

  10. Susan, this is something that has been at the forefront of my thinking lately. The whole ‘us vs. them’ mentality- and the hatred it creates HAS to be expunged from our way(s) of viewing the world.

    Only through working together- as national/ethnic/religious communities- can we approach solutions that will eradicate those evils about which you speak.

    • Thank you for this. I can only continue to pray…for those tiny pieces of peace, and for the large ones; and for the personal peace that affects my own life. It’s not always easy, but it’s what I’ve come to realize is so desperately needed.

  11. I struggle with this so much, this loving our enemies thing. Not ideological enemies, as many do, but actual, personal “they screwed me over in real life” kind of enemies. People who have done you wrong and who should be sorry, but are not … and you’re still living with the consequences of their betrayals and their rejection. So I appreciate this, even though I have no answers.

    But thank you for pointing out the Israel/Palestine issue. It has long been a frustration of mine that Christian Americans (especially) seem totally blind to what Palestinians have suffered that have pushed them to suicide bombings and the like. Our support of Israel despite objective thought and consideration of human rights violations is alarming. The more educated I made myself about what Palestinians have been through, the more unsettled I am that America does not seem to approach the matter with much objectivity.

    • Me, too…and I was raised Jewish, so I was part of the blind support. Once I began to educate myself, I was truly horrified at the treatment of people in occupied territories. Thank you for being someone willing to educate herself on this important situation.

      The personal part I understand, too. It’s extremely difficult to pray for someone who has left you devastated. I don’t have all the answers either…only to say that unless we turn from being an “eye for an eye” culture, we will never turn systems around, we will never stop generational abuse, and we will never be able to let go of the bitterness that clutches our individual hearts.

Comments are welcome. I look forward to hearing from you.

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