Sunday, August 12, 2007

Why "love your enemies" is not an optional teaching

Loving our enemies is hard. But I have sometimes heard talk as if loving our enemies was something that could safely wait for another day. It is easy to let ourselves think that loving our enemies is for "advanced" Christians, and hadn't we better just start with something easier?

But the problem is that everyone, sooner or later, is at risk of becoming our enemy. The age of strife in this world finds that often "A man's enemies shall be the members of his own household." Those who are closest to us have a hundred times more opportunities -- or risks -- of offending us than our mere acquaintances. And the people who are closest to us are at the greatest risk from our own flaws.

It might be easy to love someone who is perfect. But we're not called to love the perfect; we're called to love our families and our neighbors. That means, at times, loving our enemies. It means knowing how to move someone from the "enemies" column to the "friends" column. It means knowing how to reconcile. It means knowing how to forgive. Because if we can't reconcile, if we can't forgive, then everyone we love is just one bad day away from being our enemy, just one character flaw away from being abandoned by us.

What can help us when we're struggling with forgiveness? One help is honest scales. With the measure we use for others, it will be measured back to us. Could we withstand being one character flaw away from our friends abandoning us, one bad day away from being despised? If people walked away from us only when we really deserved it, would any of us have any friends left?

Another help is shared weakness. For our enemies, their weakness (or ours) is what separates us. For friends, our weakness is part of what unites us. When our enemies show their faults, we smirk and think to ourselves, "Would you look at that! How low!" When our friends show their faults, we chuckle at ourselves and say to ourselves, "Just like me."

The biggest help of all is remembering God's love. God's forgiveness does not fail, his mercy does not fade. His kindness does not reach an ending; his love is steadfast. He seeks us at the only time we need seeking: when we're lost. He forgives us at the only time we need forgiving: when we're in the wrong. His love endures forever.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Amen and amen.

"And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

So My heavenly Father also will do "to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (Matthew 18:3-35)

For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." (James 2:13)


Weekend Fisher said...

And just when you think everyone's safely off the enemies list, someone else has a bad day and takes it out on you, y'know ...