Sunday, January 9, 2011

Love Your Enemies ~ Acceptance~Part 2

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Luke 6:27

The pictures today don't illustrate my subject, but I'm hoping that they'll touch your heart with the idea of love and getting along with others, since they are so sweet and beautiful. They are all by Carl Larsson, the famous Swedish painter.

You probably believe that you know how to love your enemies, whether they're in your family or on another continent, but test yourself to see whether it's really true. Not by my standard, of course, but by God's standard. If God tells you to do something, there is a way to do it...not easily perhaps, but He never promised ease to His children while on this earth. So looking at this 17th chapter in Meeting God in Quiet Places: the Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith, the question is: "How do we come to love our enemies?"

Since this is a matter of Christian obedience, you may be perplexed at such a challenge. But remember that Jesus often taught "tough love," and when He said, "Love your enemies," He meant it. If you're feeling a little puzzled at that thought, you may be downright stymied at this incredible command: "Do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back!" Whoa! Isn't that going too far? I have trouble enough lending to people I like, much less to people I can't stand! "Give to our enemies" sounds more like a battle cry than a Christian duty. 

So you're probably wondering what Jesus said about it. Jesus said: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?" Which means that loving someone who is lovable is easy to's loving those who are unlovable that expands the nature of who you are. Everyone takes for granted that your enemies are unlovable, else they wouldn't be your enemies, would they? Looking at what Jesus actually did in regard to his enemies, as He was hanging on the cross, He said: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." If we are truly Christians--followers of Christ--don't we have that same grace working in us...the kind of grace that makes this kind of tough love possible?
Let's go back to the thought that we are made in God's image, because it is this fact that makes it possible for us to love in extraordinary ways. Remember the package deal: our ability to appreciate the beauties of nature, the ability to love, and moral choice. Are you wondering what difference these qualities make?

 I'll try to explain by saying that you can use your sense of aesthetics to see beauty in your enemy, even with all those obvious human frailities hanging out. You can use your aesthetic sense to see through hostility to their heart, as they're making a choice to do what is right as they see it. You might begin to feel compassion for the events--which could be life-changing--influencing the decisions people make. What motives are driving this person's choices?

Jesus forgave those who crucified the Son of God! That is unconditional love in action. We must let the love of Jesus strengthen us to look for beauty in our enemies. There is good and bad in all of us. Our enemies show more bad than good to our way of thinking. But there is good somewhere within them that we can find if we look for it! Your present enemy may never be your best friend or a guest in your home, but just changing your attitude can lift the heaviness of hatred and resentment from your heart. Jesus wants us to love our enemies partly because it's good for US! You may find that your enemy is much like you, with all the same faults and all the same virtues, if you'll only look for them. 

God didn't intend for us to live our lives filled with hatred and malice toward anyone. Those words sound far away from each of us, but examine your heart to see if your feelings--which may have begun as mere disagreement with someone--haven't turned into something heavier and darker. God made us for much greater things...things like love and beauty, which sometimes call for tough love from us. For most of us, loving our enemies will take some intense practice, but following Jesus as our example,  we can do it!

Have a beautiful day with your family!


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