“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:43-45a; CEB)
To be honest… it’s difficult to love your neighbors as well…
Loving your enemies, though — that’s another level of difficulty.
Sometimes, we won’t even entertain the notion of loving our enemies because they’re… well, our enemies.
I think — at times — it can be comforting to have “enemies”; to have a “them” to our “us.”
It gives us permission and reason to never engage. Why would we engage with “them” when they’re not one of “us“?
I know a United Methodist Clergy from the Texas Annual Conference that went to visit a West Coast Annual Conference to have dialogue with clergy about LGTBQ issues that the denomination is facing. The Texas clergy wanted to see how they can be a proponent and a better ally to the LGTBQ folks in the Texas Annual Conference.
The clergy recounted the disappointment of how not a single clergy from that West Coast Conference engaged with him as soon as they discovered he was from the Texas Annual Conference. Everyone assumed that he was there to cause dissension and felt comfortable keeping him a “them” to their “us.”
But not only does it give us permission to never engage, it relieves us of any responsibility in the role that we may have played in making an enemy.
Rarely does one make an enemy by simply minding one’s own business.
We have played an active role in making someone our enemy. We also give ourselves a free pass and put all the onus and blame on “them” never acknowledging our role in making them a “them.”
Nor do we do anything about restoring that relationship. Not only do we have a role in making them a “them” but we (usually) also play an active role in keeping them a “them.”
Love and pray for our enemies?
I almost want to ask — what’s the point? Because it’s easier and more comfortable and convenient to keep them as an enemy.
But that’s not what Jesus tells us to do.
Love your enemies, he says.
Pray for those who harass you, he says.
If you genuinely attempt loving your enemies (even if it’s not reciprocated); if you genuinely pray for them; wishing them the best; praying for blessings to come their way; to genuinely desire the best for them, your enemies — how, then, can they possibly remain your enemies?
Jesus is calling us to eliminate our enemies — just not in the way we may have imagined (and/or desired…)
I was mulling over these thoughts when my friend, Michael Gienger’s FB post appeared on my feed.
Gienger is one of my favorite people I’ve met in the Texas Annual Conference and he and his church (Galveston Central) are doing great and holy things.
Here’s to courage and strength so that we can do the work of transforming our enemies into friends “through profound, unthinkable acts of grace and forgiveness and steadfast love.”