Sunday, June 21, 2009

Love your Enemy

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately, especially related to the emotional component of how love and hate/anger are related to forgiveness. The Biblical passage that has me stumped is in Matthew 5 where Jesus teaches us to "Love your enemies."

An enemy is "one who feels hatred toward, intends injury to, or opposes the interests of another; a foe." Jesus doesn't say befriend your enemy. Jesus doesn't say feel good feelings about your enemy. Jesus doesn't even say forgive your enemy. If my enemy were to repent and ask for forgiveness, and I were to forgive and reconcile with that person, then he would no longer be my enemy. This command is all about *my* behavior irrespective of what my enemy does. It is a hard command, very hard. Maybe the hardest of them all. It is very asymmetrical. Someone does evil to me, but I return that with good. That is the point Jesus is making.

So, can I love my enemy and still be angry at him? That probably depends on how my enemy responds to my loving behavior. If I can win this asymmetrical battle by overcoming evil with good, chances are my emotions will follow. And, perhaps my my enemy will repent or at least relent or even turn from their wicked ways and seek God, but I cannot count on that. I may continue to be attacked in which case I can put up boundaries or flee if possible. There are no guarantees. If all I get is continued persecution I'm left to depend on Romans 12:19. Jesus does offer a little bit of help. He says "pray for those who persecute you." Take it to God, and maybe He will help us with this very hard teaching.

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