Sunday, February 23, 2020

Loving and Praying for Our Enemies is Awesome

There are certain passages of Scripture that I've thought really don't apply to me. Or better put, they only applied to me in a theoretical way. One such instance is the passage, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." For a good portion of my life, I understood that passage in a theoretical way. "If it should so happen, that some day, somewhere, somehow I have an actual enemy, I should love him and pray for him." But, I never had any sort of enemy. 

I mean there was the "enemy" like the Soviet Union when I was growing up, but they didn't really have any sort of impact on my life. There were people here and there that didn't like me or people with whom I had disagreements, but they really weren't "enemies." It wasn't like they were plotting against me and seeking my demise! So yeah, the whole love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you thing seemed a bit out of my league. I was happily excused from that Gospel admonition. It was some sort of command that I would follow in the unlikely event that some day I'd have an actual enemy, someone who really focused their ire towards me.

Well, apparently the Lord knew what He was doing when He gave that command because eventually, I got my very own enemy. It took me entirely by surprise. Didn't see it coming. Kind of knocked me off my game. And this wasn't just any old enemy. This enemy really put me in his sights, looking for every opportunity to do me injury, by word and by deed. I thought I could win him over by small gestures here and there, but it became clear that nothing I could do was going to win him over.

When trying to "win" by winning him over didn't work, I determined that I would have to out-maneuver him. When he tried to sink me in one way, I'd be victorious in another. The only problem with that is that I found myself living in a world that is boring, empty, and soulless. And this is why loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us is so much better than the alternative.

The alternative is to live a life on a battlefield that is pointless and absurd. This kind of life sees victory in basically meaningless things (no matter how earthly important they seem). This kind of life reduces us to engaging not in epic struggles, but in petty politics. It sucks the humanity right out of us and makes us ridiculous. 

Jesus' invitation is so vastly greater. He invites us to "be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." This command to pick up the Cross and carry it is an invitation to a beautiful freedom. It extricates us from being chained to a ho-hum, mundane, worldly life. It elevates us, allowing us to share in the Divine Life. This invitation--and the grace that comes with it--conforms us more perfectly with Jesus Christ who did not let His enemies distract Him from His mission.

The Devil wants us to hate our enemies. That way, our focus is on them and not on God. The Devil wants us to focus on our enemies, their maneuverings, and their attacks. In doing so, the Devil turns our gaze from Heavenly things to worldly things. The Devil wants us to think that our ultimate end is to be successful in this world. By having us focus on our enemies, the Devil basically is taking us up to a lofty place and telling us, "All of this can be yours. Bow down and worship me, and I will give you ALL of this." Of course, the "all" really amounts to a hill of beans.

Jesus, on the other hand, takes us to a low place--to places of pain, humiliation, sorrow, injustice--and then points up to heaven and says, "All of this can be yours." 

None of us, I presume, wants to have enemies. But if we do, the Lord tells us how to respond to them. He doesn't say put up with them, endure them, and forget them. He says to love them. In this way, we become truly free from being the minions of an earthly mentality. It also creates in us a tremendous sympathy for our enemies and makes us desire that they too be set free. When we love our earthly enemy, we remember who our true enemy is, the Evil One.

If you have enemies, sincerely pray for them today. In fact, pray in thanksgiving for them. They just might be your way to becoming perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

No comments:

Post a Comment