Here’s a riddle for you: What’s something everyone has, the evidence of having stood up for something…yet also a byproduct of brokenness?
Give up? The answer…
You know those people who curse you yet you’re supposed to bless…who hate you yet you’re supposed to love…
In many ways, we love to hate our enemies…to exact sweet revenge without the calories. But what if I told you while revenge is sweet, forgiveness is sweeter? What if I told you while enemies hurt, not loving them hurts even more?
Whatever the case, wherever you find yourself, if you want to better love your enemies, here are three truths to remember…
1. Understand who they are
When it comes to our enemies, it’s easy to hide behind the labels we place on them. Seriously, how many of you at one point had a sinking relationship you wanted to write off? Like mileage on taxes…or interest on a mortgage?
Granted, enemies come in many forms and yield to subjective definitions; still, if you’re like me, then chances are you know what it’s like standing on the mast of a shipwrecked relationship capsized by offense and insecurity. Perhaps now you’re drinking the bitter dregs of an expired friendship, a partner turned rival, or a severed family tie.
If so, I want to offer some hope: You don’t have to see your broken relationships as enemies!
But Cam, how is this even possible?
To be honest, I can’t say entirely. All I know is when it comes to better loving our enemies, the best place to start is choosing to see them how God sees them.
Now I know this is a sticky, tricky subject for some so with that, I want to tread this topic carefully. At the same time, I want to emphasize the importance of perceiving enemies as broken yet redeemable brothers and sisters in Christ.
‘Cause truth is…
When we contend for reconciliation, we ultimately redirect ‘enemy’ off a person’s identity and onto the principalities in between.
Therefore, if you want to better love your enemies, the first step is to accept the fact who you think they are isn’t who they are…and instead reframe ‘enemy’ as lovable people who you’ve hurt, who’ve hurt you, who’ve cut you out, who’ve accused or slandered you, etc.
Bottom line: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.” Ephesians 6:12 (AMP)
2. Consider your ways
Now that we’ve framed who our enemies are, we can better discuss how to bridge our divides with them.
But before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight: Not all reconciliation stories are going to have happy endings. After all, when the lock is on the other side, obviously you’re not going to be able to unlock it.
That said, there’s no reason why you can’t knock at least once. The question is: How do we knock the right way at the right time?
For starters, it’s best to filter misunderstandings through vain imaginations before dashing to the doorstep. Ask yourself what is being assumed, what is the reason behind my suspicion, what signals and vibes am I giving off? Give yourself permission to self-examine.
Then after careful consideration, begin to rejoice and repent…
- Ask the Lord to illuminate outstanding resentments, bitterness, and grudges.
- Release to Him the burden of having to be the one to make things right.
- Request of God a removal of fear, a prescription of peace, a path to follow, and a heart of humility.
- Pray into what needs to be said and how it’s to be communicated.
- Thank the Lord for all He’s done and what He’s going to do.
Remember these steps don’t entitle you to action, but rather position you to better know how to bridge the gap once given the green light. From there, it’s all downhill (i.e. embracing courage, walking in grace; see next point).
Bottom line: Before rushing to resolution, “humble yourselves…under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV)
3. Make love known
For this point, we’re going to assume you have the peace to confront; or as I like to say, make love known (not an agenda).
While intentionally loving your enemies can be intimidating, it can be all the more freeing when we recognize what is starts with:
- Love starts with courage. No question, loving in broken environments requires boldness; however, to be bold, we must choose courage from the onset. Accordingly, if you have faith in the source of love (i.e. God) and its message (i.e. the kingdom of God), then you have access with confidence and without hindrance into the places they’re needed the most (see Acts 28:31, Ephesians 3:12). Keep in mind you have what it takes so don’t be discouraged if it takes everything you’ve got.
- Love continues by faith. If your decision to love is motivated by results, then newsflash: It’s not love since love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5). For if genuine love is to continue by faith, then you must die to your desire for favorable outcomes and progress. That way, when your effort is refuted or ignored, your desire to ‘try again’ will be renewed and you won’t take the rejection personally.
- Love advances with an invitation. When we boil it down, loving your enemies is God’s ministry of reconciliation in motion (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Still, how we reconcile is worth discussion since if we’re to be “out of our mind”, when must do so in way that tells our adversaries “it is for you” (2 Corinthians 5:13). Hence, why love starts with courage, continues by faith, but advances through invitations where encouragement can be expressed.
In my experiences with adversaries/frenemies, I’ve learned the best way to mend fences is to be sensitive to what they’re experiencing and processing. As the past has taught me, if I can offer hope in the moment, chances are I can further extend it through invitations to connect later on. Even if it’s just a short e-mail or text, the impact of those ‘little’ things can only help establish reconciliation.
Bottom line: Regardless of how you make love known, know the same Christ who is in you is in your midst working on your behalf. Remember there’s no need to fear when you have nothing to lose.
“Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (MSG)