As I write on the topic of loving my enemies, I can’t help but think about the times when someone’s words or actions have purposefully hurt me. More often than not I’ve been called words like ugly, or disgusting, told I’m not talented enough, or that I didn’t deserve the grand prize in life. This hurt me. This hurt me so deeply, to my core even that when I think of these past events, the wound somehow re-opens, claiming its hold on me for that moment in time. I cry, I yell, I even curse and none of it makes me feel better. I struggled to forgive my offenders and love them.
But then I prayed. This wasn’t easy. I prayed to God to let go of these feelings of resentment and pain, to remember that I am a child of God and he has created me just as I am and what is mine is mine. Then I prayed for the man or woman who hurt me. I prayed that they know that words have just as much power as fists, that behavior and absolute statements are not for them to make, and I prayed that they never treat someone like that again. I prayed for their families, their health, and their provision. Then I prayed that they know God and are forgiven. After this, I asked him for courage, power, and that I will never say or do something to someone like that which has been done to me. But it doesn’t stop here. As you’ve read, these events occurred in the past for me, but they seem to always come up, like somehow it’s not over, not fully forgotten or forgiven. Something that I hold onto everyday is the fact that above all else I must love God. To love Him means to forgive people of their actions that may have caused you pain. You will know you have forgiven them when you see them, and no animosity, pain, fear, frustration, or anger fills in your thoughts.
You will know you have forgiven them when you see them, and no animosity, pain, fear, frustration, or anger fills in your thoughts.
This is one of my favorite scriptures about forgiveness: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:44-48).
This startles me every time I read it. How is this possible? How do we open our hearts, and keep a smile on our faces around those that degrade us, and treat us like yesterday’s leftovers? We must remember that we are all children of God. To love your enemy is to not think about them in a fleshly manner full of glaring eyes, or a racing heart, and in contempt but to simply not think of them at all as the person who upset you, but to think of them as a child of God who makes mistakes just as you do. Jeanine Griffin, a devout Christian and mother of two adds that “the best way to love your enemies is to think of every person as your brother or sister in Christ. If we look at everyone with that in mind then it makes it easier to pray for that person earnestly. Now loving someone should also be unconditional. So that means that you embrace them and their habits and try to show them another way to live strictly through your behavior. “Loving them is walking and talking in his peace. Wow, this calls us to love the people that hate us and make us cry. But what if we just can’t let it go, if the hurt has etched itself on the inside of us?
In one of the instances mentioned in the first paragraph, I actually confronted the person who told me I wasn’t talented enough. To be honest, her behavior towards me really bothered me. Now I’m not one for confrontation, but I had to get this off my chest. Especially because she was in a mentor/teacher position and she gave up on me about half way through the session, marking me down as a lost cause. I was truly hoping that she wouldn’t do this to anyone else in the future. I told her how I felt and she had guilt written all over her face. Scrambling for words to match mine, I told her that I was going to be just fine, God has my back. That brought her to a halt. She was speechless. Know that God is our best defense against any hurt, anger, pain, etc. He’s a rock in a weary land. This helped me to accept what happened and to finally bring it to God’s feet, to lay it before him.
Jesus is the ultimate forgiver. He was on the cross, looking down at the men and women persecuting him, and he still asked the Father to forgive them. To forgive is to cease to feel resentment against an offender, pardon, to forgive one’s enemies. We are all called to be examples of Jesus. Jesus didn’t have time to wallow in the pain he felt towards those who were mistreating him. As we say nowadays, he kept it moving, kept it stepping to eternal salvation. He was on a mission. See, many times things pop up in life to keep us from achieving our destiny. Pain from the past will have a hold over our future. But we all know that when we are reborn in Christ we are new creatures, the old things passed away. Another help in the process of forgiving your enemies is to know that your relationship with God and your salvation is more important than any grievance. After all, God prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies. (Psalms 23: 5) Remember, we have the same blood of Jesus covering us and flowing through us which means we have the same will to forgive.
You may still be asking why Christ wants us to love our enemies in the first place. It’s because he wants us to all be in one accord. Now you may be asking, how is it possible to be in one accord with our enemy, isn’t that reserved for Christians only? The answer is no. To be in one accord means to be in agreement, to reconcile. When you’ve fully forgiven said enemy you’ve been reconciled with them, you’ve agreed to forgive. Sometimes the enemy that we refer to is someone who works in the church with us, we may be on the mother’s board together, or in an auxiliary, but we must always remember that in the church we are there to serve Jesus, not each other. Romans 15: 5-7, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” As Christians we have to be living examples of Christ. In church a few Sundays ago, the speaker quoted Gandhi, who once said “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians, because your Christians don’t look like your Christ.” We need to look like Him, talk like Him, and walk like Him, and live like Him always because to those who are new believers or do not yet believe we are the only example or evidence of Christ that they may ever see in this world. We are living vessels of God. If we ask God for a forgiving spirit like Jesus, the Holy Spirit will help us to do this sincerity.
The speaker quoted Gandhi, who once said “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians, because your Christians don’t look like your Christ.
Right now in the world we can see the evidence of people not loving each other and what happens as a consequence. The hate killing that took place almost six months ago in Mississippi on June 26th, 2011 is an example of what happens when we do not love each other. In this crime, a black man was severely beaten by a group of white teenagers and run over by a truck. One teen is said to be the lead conspirator. It’s truly sad because this man did nothing to this young man; it was purely a racial hate crime. In this young man’s eyes, this man was an enemy, but for no reason. If hate can be that powerful, think about how much more powerful love can be. I just found myself looking through Yahoo! News to find evidence of what happens when we love each other, i.e., charitable deeds, sheltering the homeless, feeding those without food, and I couldn’t find one thing. But I did open the Los Angeles Times to find an article about how college students who are illegal immigrants may begin to receive public aid. What I take from this is that love has the ability to extend far beyond one’s self. It can reach hundreds, thousands, and even millions and change lives for the better.
Loving your enemies may not seem like the right or “normal” thing to do as a human born into sin, almost like going against the grain. It may actually feel a little weird at first, but as a Christian, reborn into the body of Christ, this is what we do. This is what Jesus calls us to do. When you think about the actions of forgiving and loving, it’s truly beautiful. It can only be ascribed to the love that God has for the world, and that is the same love in us.
So now that our enemy is forgiven, we must pray for a healing. Ask God to restore you, to heal you from the hurt and to remind you daily that the past is in the past for a reason. Keep praying for his power, keep asking for him to suture your wound(s), prayer is the ultimate way to see God’s anointing at work in your life. Ask God to, “forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Know that as we mend, the Holy Spirit is working things out in our favor. As he is our comforter, he is not only healing us, but he’s chipping away at the scab so what will remain will be a clean slate. A do-better. Yes, we’ve gone through things but God has allowed them to be nothing but a hiccup in our past.
I still think about the woman who hurt me, but the difference between now and then is that now I see that hurt at a distance. It is no longer a part of me. It no longer governs over me or dictates my mood. How to love your enemies is to forgive, to live well, to love, and to “press forward to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:14).