We are instructed to love our enemy. But who is our enemy? Am I able to show Christ’s love to those who are difficult to love?
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” These are the words of Jesus found in Matthew 5:44. I grew up hearing, and being taught these words. They’ve always sounded good, something that all people should strive for, but not something that was ever put into tangible daily practice. Perhaps it should have been.
A tragedy occurred back in July of 2015 that perfectly demonstrates what this means. After the shootings in Charleston, SC there were no riots in response to the evil that occurred. Instead, people came together and loved each other. I believe this is mainly due to how the family of the victims responded to the young man that forever changed their lives. They forgave him. They showed love to him.
I came across the story of a teen who, back in 1996, was willing to sacrifice herself to stop a mob beating of a man they believed to be a part of the KKK. Instead of joining in, or even standing by, she protected him. She showed love to him. (I urge you to go and read about this girl, and to see the pictures of love fighting hate.)
But what is LOVE? And who is our ENEMY? And what does this look like day to day?
What love is…
- attraction based on sexual desire
- strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties
- unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another
The bible describes love as:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV
How to love…
There is a problem with “love” though, because it means something different to different people at different times. It is only understood in certain ways within certain relationships. I’m not going to show love to a jerk at the grocery store the same way I need to show love to my three year old (who can also act like a jerk). I’m also not going to show love to the friend I just made the same way I show love to my hubby (that would be awkward).
In the case of the Charleston shootings, the families showed love by forgiving. The teen showed love by sacrificing. As a mother (especially those first couple of months) love is giving all with receiving nothing in return. In a relationship with a spouse, it’s not uncommon to show love by being confrontational with a truth they don’t want to hear. And sometimes (like with strangers and social media) we can show love by simply keeping our mouths shut.
This is where it gets even stickier. In a society where our closest “friend” is Facebook, we feel like we need to be honest and confrontational with “truth” claiming it is with the desire to show “love” (the definition of truth is a whole different topic). But that’s kinda like being confronted with how to parent your children by the clerk at Target. This actually happened to me, and you know what? It TICKED ME OFF!!! And now I avoid her line at all cost. It shouldn’t be surprising if people start avoiding us because we are “lovingly” telling them that they are wrong.
Who our enemy is…
Next, we ask the question, who is our ENEMY?
Is it an abuser? A religious leader or organization? Rednecks? Conservatives? Liberals? The clerk at Target?
Back to the dictionary:
- someone who hates another
- someone who attacks or tries to harm another
- something that harms or threaten someone or something
- a group of people (such as a nation) against whom another group is fighting a war
To “love your enemy” does not mean that you agree with or condone the act that is offensive. It may, however, mean that you have to forgive them (and possibly sever ties with them), or put aside your own wishes and sacrifice for them. Perhaps it means you confront them, or maybe you simply need to bite your tongue and not say anything.
But one thing that is perfectly clear, we must pray for them. Pray more than you speak. Or type.