Sunday, March 6, 2011

Do I really have to love my enemies?

One verse in the Bible I tend to (purposely?) forget about is in the sermon on the mount when Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies and pray for, or bless, those who curse them. I know that verse quite well, however I tend not to dwell on the implications of what he is telling us to do. The “love your neighbor” command I can handle fairly well, as long as I consider my neighbors the people who are really nice to me all of the time. And I’m working on loving my neighbors even when they treat me poorly or aren’t as nice to me as I’d like for them to be. But if it’s hard enough for me to love the people who love me when they are mean to me, should I really have to love people who don’t even like me? How on earth am I to make myself feel better about myself without those people to look down upon? Frankly I don’t like to think about what it would mean to truly love my enemy and pray for those who curse me. That means that if someone gossips about me and my friend tells me about it, I should in turn say something nice about them to my friend, ask how they are, and find something they need prayer for to add to my prayer list. How am I even supposed to be sincere about something like that? What if, instead, I simply hold my tongue and change the topic? I feel like that should be enough to keep any hatred from creeping into my heart. But dang it, what if that’s just my excuse to secretly harbor resentment and be able to silently hold a grudge against them that allows me to conjure up all of the flaws they must have in their life that make me better than they are and thus above any petty insults they throw at me to make me look less perfect than I obviously am? Whoa, where did that come from? Surely not from me, because I would never do something like that. So if I have absolutely no tendencies toward the mindset that I just described, which we already established that I absolutely don’t, then why would I have to go so far as to actively love and genuinely care for those who curse me? Shouldn’t their friends (if they even have any) be the ones taking care of that? I have way too many other people to be praying for. The only way I would ever see any benefit in praying for my enemies would be if somehow those prayers and concerns, however forced or fabricated at first, might slowly turn my heart from resentment and hostility toward the kind of unconditional love that God lavishes on all of his children, no matter how wretched they are or what kind of gossip they spread about the rest of His wretched children. And only then, after some miraculous transformation of my heart toward my enemy, would there be any chance that I may treat that person in a way that might startle them into a renewed mindset that I’m not quite as bad as they had heard I was and that maybe we wouldn’t have to be total enemies after all. And perhaps that unconditional love for my enemies would spill over into the rest of my life and color the way that I look at everyone I encounter so that I see them not just as random people but as beautiful children of God. Otherwise I just don’t see the point in going to all of that trouble, do you?

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