The first time this was said to me, it took my breath away. This person had no intention of giving me a second chance to win back trust or rebuild that which was broken. There was no attempt to move into a mutually blessed relationship. There were boundaries - tall, thick and impenetrable. I was forgiven, because God commanded it, but I was never to be a friend. I learned much in this season. I learned to love with no expectation of reciprocation. I learned I am STILL, at heart, a people-pleaser and gave this person far too much power over my thoughts and emotions. I learned it is SIN to allow another to define my worth - God has defined my worth. I learned it is dangerous and sinful to accept another's labels - that role also belongs to God. I learned it is possible to love the Lord and set boundaries with others...but those boundaries shouldn't be set in stone. Boundaries should be open to the softening of the Holy Spirit as all grow in grace and wisdom. I learned this person was correct - God does not command me to like my enemies. I also learned we are far to quick to label those we don't like as "enemies." I learned it takes minute by minute dependence on God to obey His commands on how we are to treat our enemies.
An enemy (Strong's #2190) is one who hates you. There is real enmity and hostility. Yes, I've had enemies, as I'm sure you have. Not every person who disagrees with me or doesn't succumb to warm fuzzies in my presence is my enemy. ::grin::
The Old Testament commanded we love our neighbors. We struggle with THAT concept. Jesus, however, took things to a new level. He tells us to love our enemies! This post will not be short and pithy. Neither, will it thoroughly cover the topic. Here are some life lessons I've learned at Jesus' feet, centering on
How do I Biblically Treat "Enemies"?
Do good to them (27) - Instead of grumbling, gossiping, plotting revenge - I'm to do good (Strong's #2573). My actions are to be "suitable, proper and beneficial."
Bless those who curse you (28) - I am to BLESS my enemies. WHAT does this mean? I'm to make them cookies? I'm to send them cheerful notes? I pray God gives them all manner of good things even as they continue to be hostile? It is interesting the word used here is NOT the same word used in the beatitudes a few moments earlier (Luke 6:20-26). That blessed is to declare someone to possess the full favor of God. That is not my job. To bless (#2127) in this verse means to "invoke God's action and intervention in their lives to accomplish His will!" It is "invoking God's blessing upon them by praying that they may be turned from their ways through God's intervention in their lives." Dr. Zodhiates. Can I do this? Yes. It is how I hope others are praying for me.
Curse (#2672) in this verse is simply to wish something bad to happen. I've been guilty of cursing others rather than blessing them. I know others are guilty of cursing me - and my response is to be to bless them - to pray for God's intervention in their lives.
Pray for those who mistreat you (28)- I pray for them as I'd like others to pray for me. I pray for God's purposes to be unleashed in their life. I pray for continued growth in all areas of their life. I pray for peace in the relationship - and sometimes it happens - sometimes I simply walk in peace through the relational turmoil.
Treat enemies the way you want to be treated (31) I want others to forgive. I must forgive. I choose to forgive even those who act spitefully. I am learning it is o.k. to set boundaries while forgiving and loving....as long as they are "soft" boundaries and I remain alert to the Holy Spirit's work in the situation.
Lend - expecting nothing in return (35) This expecting means that I give without looking for an earthly return. I expect nothing in return.
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Be merciful just as your Father is merciful (36) - A son is expected to exemplify his father's character. Our Father is merciful (Strong's #3629). Our father is actively compassionate.
God is not calling me to be schizophrenic. He calls me to direct my will to the benefit of those who are hostile towards me. He knows I won't have warm brotherly feelings towards these people, but I AM to lay down my life for them. He calls me to do good, invoke His presence in their lives, pray for them, lend as needed, and to be merciful.
I obey His clear teaching, not because I hope my enemies will eventually love me. I obey simply because our Father has done this for me. I am to imitate Him even in this hard place - where some truly do not like me and are actively hostile.
Living all of life before the face of God...