“You never know God is all you need until God is all you have” (Rick Warren, but possibly from Mother Teresa first). Here is where the rubber meets the road. It’s hard enough to love well even those we do love, but where in the world are we to get the grace to love those who are our enemies . . . those who hate and hurt us, or even those who are opposed to our values and obstruct our freedom to pursue what we believe to be right and good?
Who are our enemies, anyway? In many countries around the world, Christians are miserably persecuted, and so it’s obvious who your enemies are. I pray for you, and I read often about the terrible ways in which believers are tortured and killed. If you are reading this and among those who are suffering persecution for your faith, my heart goes out to you. Psalm 56 provides comfort for those who are pursued by deadly enemies. The title says, “Upon Jonath-elem-rechokin,” which has been translated, “the silent dove in distant places.” Is that you? In this psalm, we learn from David that it’s only through placing the whole weight of our burdens on God that we can overcome fear with faith and overcome evil with good. Jesus was able to go beyond faith to actually love his enemies. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). I read these words, and I know the “theory,” but I would have to be tried by fire to be able to say that I could ever love people so well that I could be put to death and respond the way Jesus did, although I’ve read testaments to martyrs who’ve come close.
In America and many parts of the Western World (and Australia), it’s often not obvious who our enemies are. We’re so well protected by our government that many of us do not have known enemies. For example, can you name your enemies? When I stop to think about it, I can’t! I’m oblivious. Probably if someone doesn’t like me, s/he simply quietly disappears from my life. Is that being an “enemy?” I don’t think of it that way; it seems more like not choosing to be a friend, and in a world of lovely people, of course we all have differences in personal taste and choose to spend time with people who see life most similarly. That’s not being an enemy; that’s just being free to use our limited time to be in community with those we enjoy the most.
So, where are our enemies? Do I need to go out and find some so that I can love them? That brings to mind the admonition about stirring up trouble (Proverbs 26:17). I don’t think God wants us to go there! We have myriad spiritual enemies who are out to destroy our souls, but God doesn’t tell us to love the minions of Satan! Rather we are to resist the devil (James 4:7), flee lusts, and keep company with those who are seeking God (2 Timothy 2:22: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart“).
So, we shouldn’t be looking for enemies, but maybe we (or at least I) should be more on the lookout for understanding whom my enemies are. Studying through the Bible passages that speak of enemies, I found three verses that stood out as speaking about God’s enemies:
*Psalm 68:21 Those who continue in their sins
*Romans 5:10 Those who have not yet been reconciled to God
*Psalm 66:3 Those who have yet to submit their wills to his
I’m listening to Running with the Giants (by a New York Times’ best-selling author, John C. Maxwell), and he makes the point that “Submission is laying down the terrible burden of always wanting to have your own way.” I love that! Have you submitted your will to God the Father and Jesus Christ his son yet? If so, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and not only friends but family! If you have not, then technically, we are “enemies” in the sense that we have opposing views on the reality of the God of Love and Light and his worthiness to be our Lord and Master.
God calls us to love our enemies, whether they are abusive people who actively try to hurt us, or dearly loved people with whom we disagree on spiritual matters. Either way. From the most wicked to the most kind—however others respond to us—we are called to love them! Love God; love others—both friends and foes. If we have to, let’s learn to bleed love. How is this possible? Only through experiencing the love of God in our lives and allowing His love to flow out through us. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Texts for this study: Matthew 5:43-45, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies.” Luke 6:27, “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies.” Luke 6:35, “But love ye your enemies.”