Knowing the love of God is something we are familiar with as sisters in Christ. We’ve experienced, learned, and embraced that amazing love. As part of our natural spiritual progression, we’ve also grown in loving those around us and our neighbors. It is not only our duty and obligation to love as we’ve been loved, but it’s also become a part of our joy too.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45 NIV).
Yet loving our enemies is the pinnacle, and probably the most difficult step to take. Loving our enemies is almost like the masterclass in loving. So, who is our enemy, and how do we carry out loving our enemy?
If you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of enemies. While there are certainly people I disagree with (and maybe have a dislike for), in my day-to-day life, I don’t have an enemy per se. Maybe others feel that I am the enemy, but I am blissfully (and ignorantly) unaware a lot of the time. I think in today’s world, we tend to visualize the enemy as someone far removed from ourselves. We may think of an enemy as someone we battle against under the banner of war or in our daily struggles. Increasingly, thanks to the instant information cycle we live in, we also tend to think of our enemies as large organizations or influential people that are the antithesis of everything we believe. They may push against our cultural, religious, spiritual, political, or personal viewpoints. These enemies feel vast and overwhelming and just one viral video away from another win on the battlefield. So how do we love our enemy, no matter the realm?
Loving your enemy first requires getting to know your enemy. Because of today’s landscape, I believe it puts even more distance and separation between people than ever before. It’s easy to consider someone the enemy when we get to know them in gigabytes of information or columns of statistics, right? It’s impersonal and cold. It’s also easy to push someone away when drama is considered more important than genuine connection.
As Christians, this is not the example Christ gave us. Christ put Himself in the story of those around Him. He didn’t rely on rumor or reputation to learn about someone else. An encounter with Christ went beyond a name to the soul. He chose to learn about both His enemies and allies. He learned about the best and worst of those around Him, and why? Because it builds a relationship. Christ knew that learning about someone’s past, present, and future was key to building a relationship with them. He knew that getting to know them was risky. There are no guarantees. Getting to know someone requires vulnerability. It takes an investment of time, effort, and even the soul to truly see into another’s life. But He did it time and time again. Most importantly, He loved those around Him right where they were. He didn’t love them for who they could be or their potential impact on the world. He certainly wanted to see everyone – enemies included – align with the Father. Yet regardless of the outcome, Christ took the risk of getting to know them, learning about them, and loving them right where He found them.
After all, didn’t God do the same for us? Living in our sin is living as an enemy of the Father. So instead of choosing not to engage with these traitorous people, He chose to reach out for a relationship. From the first formations of the body in the womb to the very essence of our soul throughout our lives, He desires to know us. And despite what we may or may not do (or rather despite what we do), He still takes the risk. He’s done so throughout history, to the point of sacrificing His own son’s life, to build that connection with us. He met us where we are, and in doing so, loved us while we were still His enemy. God loves His enemies and has made a way for us to do so too.
by Heidi Looney
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We hope to see you there!