“I love my enemies!” my little granddaughter piped up during family devotions. “What enemies do you have?” her parents asked, certain she had none – and hadn’t even the faintest idea what it meant!
“My nonni!” the 4-year old replied with satisfaction, convinced that enemies and the Italian word nonni (grandparents) meant the same thing. (Oh the difficulites of Third Culture Kids)!
It certainly would be odd for a 4-year old to already have enemies.
And actually, it’s very sad that any of us should have them, or that anyone would want to behave as an enemy. But the troubled family situations, broken friendships, war and conflict all around us, prove that many prefer discord to peace.
As Christ followers we should always strive for peace.
But the problem is that not everyone lives with this intention, and we end up with unwanted enemies. That’s why it’s important to know what God has to say about them. And most importantly what we should do about them, and what to do if the other person doesn’t want peace.
Christ provided the key by giving us a NEW commandment.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also love one another.John 13:34 WEB
It probably seemed strange to the disciples that he called it a new commandment. They had already heard this teaching, both from Christ and in the Old Testment.
So why new?
Because the Jewish leaders had changed the command. “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” is what they taught. And with their hard hearts they were often ready even to stone them.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you.Matthew 5:43-44 WEB
So Christ was teaching them a new way.
“Love one another as I have loved you.”
And we think, “That’s just what I want to do, but I always seem to fail.” And that’s because we love in our own human way.
But Christ’s love was both sacrificial and powerful.
And that’s the kind of love it will take to win over our enemies – as shown through the following story.
A lady brought a little ragged orphan girl to her house for a playmate for her three daughters. But the little thing would venture no further than the lobby, where she sat crying as if her heart would break. The lady said to her daughters there was one secret of four letters which she thought would win the little one. The eldest girl tried her d-o-l-l, the second her new m-u-f-f, but still the little stranger kept on weeping. At length the youngest sister ran into the lobby, sat down beside her, began to weep with her, and then put her arms about her neck and kissed her, till at last she easily got her into the room. And then they learned that the secret was L-O-V-E.Based on a story from The Biblical Illustrator; in the Public Domain).
God loved us, even when we were his enemies.
And he actively demonstrated it. He came down to our level and embraced us – dirt, rags, and all. He wept with us, bestowing his kiss of grace and forgiveness. And conquered all our fear, despair, and hatred. (Romans 5:8-10)
And this is just the love our enemies need. Their hateful actions have made them dirty and ragged just like that little girl. Perhaps they’re not even sorry for what they’ve done and don’t deserve our forgiveness. But loving like Christ means forgiving anyway.
Obviously the first place to start is trying to clear things up. When we wrong others, we apologize and try to make it right. It’s part of following Christ.
But what about when we’ve been wronged, and the other person doesn’t own up to it?
Forgive them anyway. They need our forgiveness (even if they don’t realize it). And we need to extend it (even when we don’t realize it). So just move past the wrongs, and show them love, as Christ has done for us.
How to love our enemies with Christ’s love:
- Start by reaching out to them. Pray for them, greet them, and wish them a good day.
- Offer friendship – in practical ways. Buy them a coffee or a small gift.
- And extend love and forgiveness, taking them in your arms, dirt and all.
And if we do, then perhaps, like the little orphan girl, they’ll decide to enter the room of our friendship – or perhaps not. But at least we will honestly be able to say: “I love my enemies, and I try to show it!”
Because the Lord teaches us not only to forgive our enemies, but also to let let it conquer all our hate and unforgiveness!
Have you been struggling with a lack of forgiveness?
Take that person (or persons) to the Lord right now in prayer. The Lord commands it, even if you don’t feel like it. And then find practical ways to reach out and show them that you do love and care; pour double love out on them!