“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.”Matthew 5:43-47 (The Message)
Lord, it’s so easy to live an “eye for an eye” life. Someone spits on your Facebook post, so you spit back. Someone shoves you for your stance on every single thing under the sun and you shove back. In an “eye for an eye” world, the give and take only ever escalates. It’s only until someone with peace in their hands intercedes that the violent roundabout ends.
In Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, “loving your enemies” means “letting them bring out the best in you, not the worst.” That is a strong call to rise above the “eye for an eye” life.
I don’t live in a fist fighting world. My preferred sword is words, and I know, I know, the power words have to pierce souls. It’s easy to fight back, to sting, to name-call, to blame, especially in the social media world.
This isn’t the way of Jesus. Jesus challenges us to give our best selves to both those who are lovable and those we can’t stand, to present the same bouquet to both our friend and our enemy. That’s a hard dozen of flowers to pick, but love and grace are regenerative. The more you pick from that garden, the brighter and more abundant are the flowers that grow.
Points of Reflection
- What tender places raise your hackles and bring out your fighting side? Journal or pray through those tender places. Confession opens the door to Christ’s healing and the Holy Spirit’s work to help us surrender our swords and pick up our bouquet of love.
- What does “your true self” look like? How can you bring your true self to the people in your life who behave in ways that drive you nuts?
For the Kids
- When someone says or does something you don’t like, how do you tend to react?
- What do you think it means to let your enemy bring out the best in you instead of your worst?
Faith / Works
As you’ve reflected on what your best and true self looks like that you present to those you love, consider what presenting this same true self looks like with your enemies, or if “enemy” feels too strong, those with whom you disagree. What needs to change this week so that your interactions with that person better reflect the love of Christ?
When your defenses start to go up, I challenge you to pause and to pray for the Holy Spirit to intercede and help you present that best self rooted in Christ. Allow the Holy Spirit to wrestle the cynical, stubborn, impatient, sarcastic, cynical, arrogant, and mean spirit into submission. Not that I know anything about those demons… 🙂
One of the most transformative books I’ve read in the last decade is The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu. Desmond Tutu shares examples of loving our enemies (the local enemy and the enemy “out there”) as well as practical ways for us to work toward forgiveness.
Forgiveness is hard. Loving our enemies is hard. Jesus shows us how, and millions of his followers over the ages have demonstrated ways for us to overcome our fear, hatred, anger, and grief to find forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, or release. I highly recommend it.
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy on Amazon or through a local independent bookstore.