loving your enemies

How do you show that you love someone? Often those who are most important to you know they are loved because you do things for them; because you use soft words; because your body language gives an unspoken understanding that you care.

How do you hate someone? Its often the opposite of a loving attitude. We often ignore those we hate; use harsh words and show contempt; we cross our arms, scowl, and you do everything you can to show how much you hate that person.

Christians should be known for loving their enemies. Jesus says that what truly sets us apart is love of enemies. Everyone loves their friends. We all love some of our family. In the least, we love the folks who think like we do. I have a friend who has a bumper sticker that says, "When Jesus said love your enemies, I think he meant don't kill them."

So I have two problems, 1. We hate our enemies. 2. Loving enemies is tough.

We hate our enemies. Look, to be honest, there is a reason they are our enemies. Often times we hate them because of something they did to us. Occasionally we hate them because we are told by our parents, our news, our peers, or even sometimes our pastor that we should hate them. Most enemies have done something to our friends or family that we cannot ever forgive.

Everyone hates someone. It makes sense to want revenge. But the Bible says leave room for God's wrath. Its not your place to hate, judge, or take revenge. It is our place to give them over to God's care.

Whenever someone starts talking about loving enemies, its inevitable that two "problems" with such craziness arise.

First, its a great policy for a person (loving your enemy) but its not possible for a government. If the United States loves its enemies, eventually those enemies will overrun our states because we are mamby pamby soft Christian types.

There are a few replies to this:
  • Loving enemies is tough, not easy. I'd say its more manly to try and love someone who hates you than to simply destroy them.
  • The only government that has come even close to pulling this off is Israel, although she wasn't too successful at it either. The only government that loves its enemies is the Kingdom of God. There is no precedent. We have never seen a nation pull this off so there is no evidence it won't work. There is just lots of evidence that violence begets violence. Escalation is the law of the day - and it has never and will never lead to a better world.
Second, when you talk about loving your enemies, we come up with crazy rhetorical possibilities where this love would be tested. For example, if you talk about loving your enemies, people will ask, "So, if a robber comes into your house and threatens to rape your wife, you are just supposed to love them?" "If terrorists kill 3,000 people in crazy religious fanaticism (which btw, is proud and patriotic for Americans, sadistic and evil for our enemies) I'm just supposed to welcome them into the country?"

There are a few replies to this as well, neither are snarky:
  • You are right. There are a gazillion places in this world where loving your enemies is tough. That doesn't mean I shouldn't try. Are you ever angry at those you love? Sometimes. Its tough sometimes. On the flip side, its hard to hate people who are good to you. The same people who look for hypothetical reasons to not love imaginary persons needs to hear a great story of actual people loving others that don't deserve it.
  • There is no substitute for loving someone. If you don't love them and I do, there is little I can do to help you appreciate how I see them. If you want to see things the way I do, love them (see below).

Loving enemies is tougher than hating them. There are very few practical ways to love our enemies because we find it so hard to do. If I asked 20 folks how they show their parents, children, or lover that they love them, I know they could give a quick answer. But if you ask how we can love our enemies....

.... yeah, its tough. Not because we don't know what we should do - but because we don't want to do it.

Here are some practical ways to love your enemies, and they are really just ways I love my friends and family and wife.

1.) Get to know them. Its really hard to hate someone who has kids like you do. Or to hate someone who loves life like you do (who doesn't?).
2.) Bring them into your home. Jesus loved to eat with those who were hated. It was one of his greatest ways of showing love.
3.) Do things to make their lives better. Has it crossed anyone's mind that if we apologized to Osama Bin Laden, if we offered help to the impoverished and oppressed of Afganistan and simply loved them, we might make friends and not enemies? Hatred might be viral, but love is organic. It grows and develops.

Just some thoughts... thats enough to work with today. Its tough, and it challenges and rubs me the wrong way sometimes. I bet it does for you too.