Friday, October 15, 2010

Loving Our Enemies: Where to Begin?

This post is part of the Bless Those Who Curse You Campaign's Synchroblog. The links to other contributors can be found at the bottom of this post.

Jesus makes me laugh. Sometimes I laugh at His snarky comebacks to the Pharisees. Sometimes, I laugh when I think of Him walking on water, perhaps with a hint of playful mischief in His eyes, as he beckons Peter to follow. Sometimes, I laugh at His blatant disregard for social customs, religious traditions, and the accepted "orthodox" theology of His day. But then, other times, there's a different sort of laughter that Jesus elicits from me. It happens when I encounter some of His most radical teachings:

"But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also...If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Or "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you...If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic...and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

This laughter isn't an intellectually-amused reaction to Jesus' razor-sharp wit. It is not the laughter that comes from the awe of, what must have been, a bizarrely beyond-all-reason experience. Nor is it the semi-maniacal laughter over Jesus flipping His culture's most precious ideologies upside-down. No. This kind of laughter comes from utter, almost appalled, disbelief. Love my enemies? Bless those who curse me? Pray for those who mistreat me? Don't fight back, but turn the other cheek? Don't resist an evil person? If someone steals my coat, give them the shirt off my back, too? Give to EVERYONE who asks of me?? Without expecting to ever be repaid?

No, this isn't the laughter of the amused. It is the laughter of the offended. The dumbfounded. The convicted.

And yet, after the initial shock wears off about just how insane the way of Christ is and how miserably I fall short of it all, there is something so brilliant and beautiful happening behind Jesus' words. It's not just that Jesus commands us to love our enemies, but He's undermining the entire belief that we even have any enemies to begin with. Paul picked up on this when he wrote, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers." People are not our enemies. People get caught up in the systems of principalities and powers, become enslaved to those principalities and powers, even acting as agents of them, but people, themselves, are not our enemies. "They" are our fellow image-bearers. "They" are our fellow human beings who God loves just as much as He loves "us." It applies to the thief, the terrorist, the hypocrite, the liar, the angry, the greedy, the self-righteous, the bitter, the wounder, the wounded, the violent, the religious-other, the sexual-other, the political-other.

Loving our "enemies" is the way to affirm the innate dignity and worth of every person, even when they deserve it the least. It's the way to stop the cyclical nature of violence, revenge, bitterness, unforgiveness, and hatred. It's the tiny window into the glorious bigger picture beyond our individual wounds and pet ideologies. Loving our enemies, sometimes, shows us that we, ourselves, have often been an enemy to "the other."

Who have we declared to be our enemies? Who have you declared to be your enemy?

Loving our Enemies. Where to begin? Perhaps, we must first realize that we don't actually have any.

Others blogging on this topic:

David Henson at Unorthodoxology: Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

George Elerick at The Love Revolution: Toxicity

Brian Ammons at Nekkid Ressurrection: Loving Those Who Curse Us

Brambonius' Blog: Love Your Enemies, Bless Those Who Curse You...

Mark Sandlin at The God Article: A Call to Political Authenticity for Christians

Danielle Shroyer: "A Prayer for our enemies....And for Us."


Jessica said...

How true! But what a hard lesson to learn.

Steve Hayes said...

Sounds like an interesting synchroblog... wish I'd known about it earlier.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoying reading your blog. You are a bright young woman. Hope rises in me as I read what you share.

I teach high school and pour much of my energy and passion into youth ministry.

What you write helps me better understand just who your generation is and are to be in this hour of the church.

I hope Georgia is treating you well. Though I live near Birmingham now, I hail from Athens, GA and miss it so.


nonprofitprophet said...

oh sometimes Jesus just makes me irritated. love my enemies. good lord. ; ~npp

Frank Viola said...

Great post. Reminds me of the forgotten words of Jesus, "Treat others the way you want to be treated."

Only the life of Christ can pull this off . . . a life that's been given to every believer. A life whose nature is loving where human love cannot go. A life that we can live by.

karen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.