Sunday, June 24, 2012
Do you have enemies?
Is that a tough question to answer?
Anyone who has read the Bible even a little bit has probably encountered this passage:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."
It's easy to read this and think about Hitler, bin Laden, the Unabomber, and other assorted nasties. But it's clear Jesus is making a much more personal application here, and is just as likely talking about that neighbor who lets his dog go on your lawn as He is some far-off historical figure you're never going to meet.
Either way, it's hard to love our enemies. It's hard to pray for them. It's not something we instinctively want to do, but something we're commanded to do, and can learn to do with the Spirit's help.
But have you ever put the shoe on the other foot?
Have you ever considered that someone else out there might just be praying for you, counting you as an enemy, asking God for relief from your persecution, and pleading with the Father to soften your heart?
This can't be, can it? Who would consider me an enemy? I haven't hurt anyone, have I?
Well, the more I think about it, there are people out there:
*Who don't work where they used to work, because of me.
*Who didn't get a job they wanted, again, because of me.
*Who put a lot of personal eggs in a basket depending on my decision about something, only to be disappointed in the decision I made.
*Whose children are experiencing disciplinary consequences for their conduct, despite their own conviction that my actions were unfair. (Could my picture be on a dart board somewhere? It just might be.)
Do Jesus's words take on a different tint in the harsh light of someone else's scorn for you, rather than the familiar ambiance of your own victimhood?
Does it feel unfair for someone else to look upon you as an enemy for actions or decisions you felt were justified? Sure it does, but that doesn't change the fact that those decisions might create the feeling of victimhood in someone else, with you squarely in their sights at the other end of that decision or action, doling out the suffering they are asking God to help them endure.
Knowing this, that someone could (and probably does) consider you an enemy for doing what you thought (and still think) was the right thing, are you motivated to reflect anew on what it takes for another person to be categorized as an "enemy" in your mind?
Are you motivated not only to pray for your enemies, but to pray for the grace to keep people out of that category who don't deserve to be there?
Help us, Lord, to be slow to count others as enemies, and to be gracious when others are quick to count us as theirs.