Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 99; 147:1-11, Jeremiah 30:18-22, Colossians 1:24-2:7, Luke 6:27-38
When Christ tells us to love our enemies, the underlying assumption is that we will have enemies; none of us gets through life without a few. How are we to love them? As usual, Jesus doesn’t tell us how to feel but how to behave: “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” This sounds like the ultimate in selflessness, but we engage in these actions to transform ourselves and our relationships with the world.
Unless we are engaged in a war, calling someone an “enemy” can seem melodramatic. To put Christ’s words into action, we might define enemies as anyone we don’t feel like blessing, praying, or doing good for. Maybe our enemies are social – the people challenging us at work, school, or other social groups. Maybe they are political; few things set us at odds so quickly, even when we share common goals. Maybe our enemies are inherited through longstanding cultural grudges, and we don’t have any firsthand reason to clash. In all these cases, society teaches us to distrust, outmaneuver, or outright harm. Television reality shows turn strangers into enemies for entertainment. Our hearts can war even when our hands are at peace.
If we love our enemies only to change them, we are missing the point. While a move from enemy toward friend is great, harboring any purpose for love other than love itself will eventually frustrate and disappoint us – and short-circuit its power to change our own hearts. How should we pray for our enemies, if not to change them? Just like we pray for our loved ones. Such prayer may take immense effort when we have been wronged, but if we wait until we feel like praying for them, that day may never come. Kindness toward those who anger us isn’t hypocritical, it is a discipline crucial to re-shaping our hearts to better resemble Christ’s heart.
Loving those who love us is nothing to brag about, but loving those who despise us – while expecting nothing in return! – changes both our hearts and the world.
Comfort: Loving our enemies gets easier with practice.
Challenge: Pray for your enemies – and mean it.
Prayer: Teach me, Lord, to love my enemies as Christ loves me. Amen.
Discussion: As you go through life, do you find you have more or fewer enemies?
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