I want you to take a deep breath and clear your mind for a second. I’m going to ask you a very serious question, and I want you to ponder the answer before you respond.
You ready? Here it comes:
Who is your enemy?
That’s it. Pretty easy, right? But think about it for a minute.
- Is it the barista that’s rude to you at Starbucks?
- Is it a co-worker that incessantly prattles on all day long?
- Is it the person in the Jetta who cut you off this morning?
- Is it a family member who shares a contrary political opinion?
- Is it someone worshiping a foreign god in another land?
If I’m honest, this questions troubles me a lot. Not because I need an enemy. I don’t. It bothers me because of something Jesus said in his sermon on the mount:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”—Matthew 5:43–44
Jesus said this to people who had always lived under the threat of hostile nations. He said this to people currently living under the oppression of an occupying power. He said this to people who, in only a few decades, would have everything they held dear completely and aggressively destroyed.
If I’m honest, I don’t really have an enemy. I have people I don’t particularly like, but none that wish to oppress me. I have people that irritate me, but none that really wish me physical harm.
This would be profound even if it was all Jesus ever said. I have a hard time loving people who I simply find inconvenient, ridiculous, or rude. I find it difficult to pray for the folks I genuinely care about.
My gospel would read more like:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, treat people however you feel they deserve. If someone annoys you, seethe about it all day. In fact, do what you can to turn others against them, too.”—II Opinions 5:4–6
When I think about the people who have treated me the poorest in my life, I wouldn’t call any of them enemies. But I know I haven’t loved them like I should. And if I owe the one person in my life who hates me the most a debt of love, what do I owe the rest of you?
So I just want to take this moment to tell all of you who aren’t my enemies, you deserve better. I love you, not because I have to, but because you’re valuable. And for every time I made you feel like you weren’t, I’m sorry.
And for any enemies waiting in the wings out there, I hope to love you, too.