"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies"
Easier said than done right? Yeah, we hear love your enemies a lot, we know we are supposed to, but that doesn't mean we know how.. It's not as if we get a list of instructions from our pastors along with that statement..
As far as I can tell, there isn't anything in the Bible that says we must be friends with everyone.. In fact, breaking away from friendships and relationships that are unhealthy for us is a good thing.. But the Bible tells us to love everyone.. It doesn't mean to love them in a romantic way like you love your spouse, or to love them in an unconditional way like you love your children.
I believe that it means to give them grace and honor, and to be the bigger person.. Remember, honor is given, not earned.
Yesterday, the speaker at church described grace in a way that I had never considered before.. I know that grace is forgiveness and I know that grace is empowerment, but this speaker said that "grace is undeserved love".. So, to be obedient to God, to love your enemies, it means that you love them even if you don't think they deserve it.. It means actually doing something.. That means doing more than just saying "I love them with the love of the Lord" and leaving it at that.. Because you know what? If we loved with the "love of the Lord" the whole world would look a lot different than it does..
Those are just words.. Real love, even loving your enemies, means actually doing something..
So, how do we love our enemies?
I have a few suggestions..
1) Pray for them~ Pray for them every day and ask the Lord to shower them with blessing..
A few months ago I ended a friendship.. It was a very close friendship of several years, but after time we had grown into different people going in different directions.. I don't regret ending the friendship, it was coming for some time, and I'm happy with the way things are.. However I do regret how I ended it.
But let me tell you something.. I pray more blessing for this family now that we are not friends than I ever did when we were.. Seriously, I pray for them every day.. I don't ask God to change them or punish them. I don't ask Him to make them see things my way (because that's just stupid)..
I pray for their health, for financial blessing, for happiness, for peace in their home.. Every good thing I would want for my own family I pray for them.
And you wanna hear something weird? I want to do it.. These aren't just empty words I pray because the Bible tells me to, these are real heartfelt prayers.. Just because I don't want to be their friend doesn't mean I don't want them to be happy..
And, if you are in a position where you don't want your enemy to be happy? Pray blessing anyway.. You never know, you might change your mind.
2) Speak well of them.
Talk about them in a positive manner.. If you try hard enough you can always find the good in anyone.. Talk about how smart they are, how funny they are, whatever.. Even if you don't feel it yourself.. Do it anyway.. If all you can come up with is "she has great taste in shoes" then say that. If they have a particular talent in a particular field, talk about that.. If you can't think of anything positive to say, then just say "she's a good person".. Even if you don't think he or she is.. Just say it..
But this also means that you shouldn't speak badly about them either.. If you need to vent, vent to your spouse.. But keep your negative opinions to yourself when speaking to others.. Don't share them with your friends or your kids (who you dislike, your children will probably dislike too, and teaching your children to dislike someone is just not OK).
This also means that when you do speak positively about someone you don't like, don't say "oh, he's a good person, though I don't particularly care for him myself".. That sort of statement doesn't honor anyone and it gives whoever you are talking to an opening to ask why you don't care for them which leads to gossip..
Which leads me to number 3.
3) Don't allow others to gossip to you about them.
It's a lot easier (for me at least) not to spread gossip about someone than it is to not listen to it. Anyone can refrain from talking about someone, but how many of us make it a point to stop others from gossiping to us? How many of us, when someone starts gossiping to us about someone, actually speak up and say "please don't talk about so-and-so to me"?
There are several reasons why we don't:
a) We worry that we may come off as rude.. b) When we speak up, we are convicting the person talking and run the risk of sounding self-righteous.. c) We worry about offending whoever is talking and possibly loosing a friend. and d) Even though we know it's wrong to listen to gossip, we just really want to hear it..
We even make up some pretty good excuses as to why it's OK that we listen; we need to hear it so we can pray for them, or my personal favorite "this person is venting and I need to be a good friend and listen".. However, we don't need to know the all the juicy details to pray for someone.. God knows.. That's enough..
As for being a good friend? A real friend would encourage you to speak positively about someone instead of allowing you to gossip about them.
4) Do not retaliate.
Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
Just because someone treats you badlly does not mean that you need to treat them badly in return.. It's in our nature to retaliate.. When someone hurts us, we want to hurt back.. When someone gossips about us, we want to gossip right back.. But Jesus said to "turn the other cheek" (Matthew 5:39)
When we retaliate we are lowering ourselves to their level.. Seriously.. It's petty, it's selfish, and it's childish.. We become so offended at their actions that we turn around and do the very same thing, and that makes us just as bad as they are..
There is no such thing as a private war.. There are spectators everywhere.. Our friends see us and so do our children.. When we retaliate we are showing others that this behavior is OK.. It speaks badly of us as parents, friends, and especially as Christians..
If you lie down with a pig, you wake up smelling like one..
I'm sure there is much more we can do to show love for our enemies, like forgiveness (by the way, forgiveness also means that once you forgive, you shut up about the offense) but forgiveness is kind of a no-brainer right?
I would totally appreciate your feedback.. How do you show love for your enemies?