Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Post from Linda Settles of Edict House

Beloved Enemy

Nothing stirs the heart to hatred more than this—loving our enemy without the power to protect ourselves from his or her assaults. Hatred rarely exists without the precondition of love—love corrupted, love abandoned, love denied. Some say that the opposite of love is not hatred—but selfishness. I believe this is true. Therefore, some have made themselves our enemies not because they hate us, but because they are selfish. They may even love us, in a self-centered, narcissistic sort of way; all the while they abuse us, misuse us, and/or neglect our deepest needs.
How, then, do we protect our heart from harboring hatred, from nurturing seeds of bitterness, from the deep, dark, sorrow of despair when the one we love is the very person who abuses or neglects us?

How do we fulfill the command of Christ to “love our enemy”? This is a difficult question, however, it must be answered in our heart and mind, because true freedom, sweet release from our angst and hopelessness, will be found only in absolute obedience to the known will of God through His Word.

 Take the time to read the passage in Matthew 5:43-48 where Jesus instructs us to love our enemies, and you will find the pathway to peace, victory over your resentments, and joy in the one true relationship that will never use you, abuse you, or abandon you. Let’s consider this passage together. In verse 43 Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…’”.

You may say, that’s all great and good, but I can’t do it. How can I love the father who abandoned me or the mother who misused me to get her drug deal? You can do it when you understand what Jesus is really asking you to do—and you realize that His command is ultimately for your best good, because He knows what will free to you live above your pain. He guides you toward His perfect peace.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover it was you.

 The last verse in this passage (verse 48) says, “Therefore you shall be perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect.”

I believe you will discover truths that will provide profound relief to your troubled heart if you take the time to follow with me as I explore the deeper meanings conveyed through the words of the command to love our enemies. We will look at three words: perfect, love, and bless. They may not mean what you think.

 Are you ready? Then let’s go:

1. Jesus said in verse 48 that if we do as he commands we will be ‘perfect.’ If you’re like me, your eyebrows are raised, and you are about to protest, “Me...perfect?” Just wait until you understand the deeper meaning of the word as Jesus used it in this verse. The word implies reaching maturity, as in growing up. It refers to developing virtue and integrity, you might say strength of character. Isn’t that what we all want to do? Well, the pathway to that kind of development goes straight through obedience to Jesus’ command to love our enemies.

So, it seems important then to understand exactly what it means to ‘love our enemies.’ Does it mean we give them access to our vulnerable heart, the opportunity to crush our already wounded spirit?

2. Let me ask you, does what you know of Jesus indicate to you that He would command this of you-- make you a doormat for others who want to advance their own selfish desires at your expense in the name of love? I don’t think so! I believe the kind of love Jesus requires involves respecting ourselves and others, setting appropriate boundaries (you can come this close but no closer), and refusing to be the object of another person’s sin. We love people by re-directing their behaviors, attitudes, and assumptions to the feet of Jesus Christ on the cross. He died for them and He will deal with them according to His will. Let go and let God—let Him do as He will with others and you will be free to mature into the person He designed you to be.
Finally, how can God ask us to bless our enemies? Outrageous! And yet, He does. Does this command stir up angst in your troubled soul? What are you talking about, God? How can you ask me to bless the person who falsely accused me, seduced me, abused me, or simply turned the other way while others misused me?
He can ask because He asks only for our good. He suffered all those things, and yet He gave his life for us. If we are really honest, we’ll admit that we are guilty of some of some of the very things that we hate in others. The first person this command benefits then, is ourselves, for we are often our own worst enemy.

 As we bless others who may be undeserving of blessing, God also blesses us. He blesses us because of His glorious nature—and not because we are deserving of His wonderful gifts. The command to bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute us is, in effect, a roadmap on the pathway to peace. Did you ever notice that when you are lost the wrong way always seems right and the right way seems wrong? We need a roadmap to get us to where we really want to go.

3. What does ‘bless those who curse you,’ look like in everyday life? Consider the following:
a) Someone says, “You’ll never make anything of yourself.” We may bless the person who curses us by praying that God will deal with the core issue driving the curse (jealousy, bitterness, resentment, a mean spirit, etc. etc.) and refusing to interact on that level.

b) When we discern that someone does not have our best good at heart, we can bless them by setting boundaries that limit their power to do harm (therefore limiting the consequences they will suffer for their sin against us). If you think perpetrators of harm against God’s children get away with it, just read Matthew 18:6-7. Jesus tells us it is better to have a millstone hung about one’s neck and cast into the depths of the sea than to harm one of God’s little ones.

If we really take God at His word, that His wrath is stored up against unrepentant sinners, we might find it easier to bless our enemies in this world, knowing the agony they will experience (if they do not repent) in the world to come. (Romans 2:5)

The great revivalist, Jonathan Edwards, penned the famous sermon titled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God;” a sermon that sent grown men crawling under the pews in fear of God’s wrath. Let’s bless others by living above the dysfunction that motivates their curses and praying that God will save them from the wrath that awaits unrepentant sinners before it is too late. Let’s follow the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who took up his cross and carried it all the way to Calvary for you and me—his beloved enemies.

Colossians 1:21-22 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Guest blogger, Linda Settles

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