We all have enemies. Who is your’s? And what will you choose – love or ….. not love?

30 Aug

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For most of us, when we think of the term “enemy”, we imagine someone distant and foreign to our daily lives. Perhaps images of Hitler or ISIS or some other evil stream across our conscience. Jesus’ mandate “love those who hurt you, pray for your enemies” certainly include these obvious examples of external evil. However, the Prince of Peace is also referring to something much closer here- something more tangible, more intimate, and something that may require significant sacrifice.

Emotional pain, relational struggle, and various other forms of personal suffering are a part of our experience in life as fallen human beings. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good.” It comes as no surprise that we wouound one another from the meeting of two people’s brokenness. Each of us have experience being the perpetrator as well as the victim in the cycle of sin. Neither of which is God’s intention.

In the midst of these moments, our peace is taken captive by anger, and we exchange kindness for hostility. And here’s the tricky part: for those of us who consider ourselves followers of Jesus, these slow corrosive transformations remain hidden beneath the surface. Deep inside of us we stir  a pot of envy, bitterness, contempt, and animosity toward one another. The reality is that we all accumulate a list of enemies in life. If you have ever looked at someone else and felt a sting of anger or frustration inside of you, if you have gone great lengths to avoid contact with someone, or maybe – out of resentment- have closed yourself off completely, I would suggest that you have an enemy. And our natural response is anything but love.

These situations provide critical decision points in our spiritual journey. We can wave our flag for the kingdom of self, extending a cheap and hollow forgiveness because that’s what we are “supposed” to do. Meanwhile inside we secretively cultivate a treacherous seed of bitterness that can sprout into subtle and destructive ways of being into our lives and relationships.

OR we can choose to live into a new and different Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is at hand when we hear with our inner ears the scandalous word of Jesus:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you will be acting as true children of our Father in heaven.”

The 18th Century Saint, Therese of Lisieux, was familiar with the revolutionary words of Jesus, and from them she developed a rhythm of life known as the “Little Way”. This humble woman devised a deceptively simple approach to following Jesus. In short, to participate in the Little Way meant to befriend those who annoy you, to aid the ungrateful, to extend a move of kindness to the selfish, and to welcome unjust criticisms.

The beauty of the Little way is how utterly available it is to everyone. From the child to the adult, from the most powerful to the least influential, all can undertake the ministry of small, hidden love. we may think these tiny, trivial acts are hardly worth mentioning, but they can change everything.

When we love our enemy, we participate in an unrecognized conquest over self.

We will likely never receive a medal or even a “thank you” for these invisible victories in ordinary life.

And yet, somehow, the Little Way become the BIG WAY in which Jesus identifies the “true children of God” and ignites revolution in our souls.


QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION

If you are honest, who in your life right now is your enemy? Take a few minutes and brainstorm with the Lord a painful experience you’ve had or someone who is a challenge for you to love. Think over the course of the past year.

Ask the Lord, “Lord, how do you see this person? Give me your divine eyes for them.” Where is the element of good- the humanity, the image of God- in them?

To the degree you are able, pray a blessing of flourishing on their good with all your heart.

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