It’s hard to tell this story without going into the specifics, but there’s no need to dredge up the past again, so please bear with me.
More than a decade ago, I went through a terrible time. Two people, in particular, plus a third who helped in the gouging of my heart, had the greatest role in that awfulness, and, for a time, I considered them all my enemies.
What does the Bible say about loving our enemies?
…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” Luke 6:27-28
“repay evil with blessing…” 1 Peter 3:9
“love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
Those passages are perfectly clear. When we, disciples of Jesus, have an “enemy,” we are to pray, bless, and love them. This behavior is not optional. It’s what disciples of Christ are supposed to do, so I did it. There was nothing amazing or saintly in my decision to obey. It was simply doing what a Christ-follower is supposed to do.
Disobedience is always sin.
Not to love my enemies, bless them, or pray for them would’ve been disobedience to the command of Jesus. It would’ve been a sin whether I felt justified in my anger or not.
Disobedience to a hard command is a sin. We don’t like to hear those words, but they’re true.
In the first few hours of that devastating darkness, I sank to my face on my prayer room floor and spoke words of blessing toward all involved. I didn’t feel it, and both God and I knew it, but I did it as an act of surrender and obedience. I prayed that same prayer over and over again. It took a long time to “mean it” when I prayed, but that effort in persevering prayer changed everything.
The outcome of obedience
The situation didn’t resolve in the way I’d hoped, but God did a work in my relationship with one of the people, and, over the years, with another one of them.
Yesterday, I was in a business meeting with one of the three former-enemy people, who’s doing some work for me. I had to call another person in the trio about the outcome of the meeting.
“What’s up with this? Is he helping you?” the second person asked.
“Yeah. He’s a great guy.”
“Are you kidding me? He was against you.”
I laughed. “Yeah, well, look at all you did, but I forgave you. I’m big on forgiveness, you know. We forgave each other and we love each other now. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him, and nothing he wouldn’t do for me.”
My former enemy was aghast. “Really?”
“Yep. This is what forgiving and loving your enemies looks like. They become your friends. This is how I treat you, isn’t it?”
Hard but worth it
There is no way to communicate how horrible the situation was. I was absolutely devastated by it. More than a decade later, though, I can look back and laugh. God did a powerful work in me, and in the other people involved, as well.
I’ve never even met the third person in the trio, and I don’t particularly want to, but I’d be fine if I did. That’s how a healed wound works. It doesn’t hurt anymore.
All that blessing and praying and loving was worth it, even though I didn’t want to do it at the time.
When we live in the shadow of the cross, we must allow it to determine how we live, how we respond to trouble, how we treat our enemies. Jesus set an example we are to follow.
What about loving our enemies is optional? Nothing.
Why love our enemies when the world says don’t? Because Jesus commanded love.
When I was face down on the prayer room floor, my reality was pain, hurt, fear, anger. I couldn’t imagine the future we all have today, but Jesus could. I didn’t have to envision it, plan for it, or anticipate such a glorious outcome. All that was required to gain the love we share today was one tiny act of obedience at all time.
If we’re reeling from the betrayal or hurt of another person, we have two options. Respond as the world responds or respond as Jesus said. Only one of those choices brings blessing. Only one brings the healing that turns enemies into dear, much-loved friends somewhere in the future.
Which will we choose? It’s a decision that can change the future in ways we cannot begin to imagine, so let’s choose obedience. Choose love, blessings, prayer, and let God use our efforts to do a work only He can do.
Loving as Christ loves is always the right decision.
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