The absolute hardest and most rewarding thing that you will ever do is decided to love your enemies. There are so many people throughout time who have made the revolutionary decision to show love to people who only hate them in return.
One of the General Superintendents of the Wesleyan Church, JoAnne Lyon tells a story of a trip to Sierra Leone, Africa. She talks about a man whose arm was cut off at the elbow durring one of the revolutions there. (Death squads would terrorize villages and cut off limbs just to show their dominance in the area) She tells of meeting this man and the time the man came face to face with his attacker. Years after his arm was cut off he simply hugged him and said, “I forgive you.” Because of the love shown they are now friends.
Loving your enemies is powerful, It’s healing, and in the eyes of the world its stupid. Politically, loving your enemies won’t sell. Defense contractors provide too many jobs to let love win as a political position. Also, we are a people who need revenge to feel like justice has been served. Somehow justice has been perverted to mean revenge.
It seems so simple and yet so difficult. I don’t think any politician will ever get elected on a platform of loving the Talaban or sending baskets of flowers to Al Queda. On the other hand, how effective has war been in bringing about change? It seems to me like it just brings more war.
Love can be defined a billion different ways, but for the sake of this post, I am simply going to say that love is wanting good things to happen to others. Think of the people you might wish harm upon. Is it helpful? Was it productive? Do you feel better now?
I am naive enough to think there is a third way that is possible in this world. A way that doesn’t include war but builds mutual trust. A way that involves lobbing love overseas versus lobbing bombs. And I’m not a hippie.
I think that people can show their governments what is possible when love becomes our primary concern. We can look at the civil rights movement in the United States and see that this third way has been put into practice in an effective way.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a policy of active non-violent resistance to racist laws. They boycotted busses, they risked death, they were thrown in prison and they were beaten to a pulp. MLK’s response, “We will wear them out with our ability to suffer.” They were clearly engaged in a different kind of battle with different kinds of tactics. Their enemies very slowly turned to friends.
Jesus encouraged people to take the soldiers pack the extra mile. I read a commentator who said that Jesus knew that if they would only get to know each other then they might not want to fight each other. The idea of walking the pack an extra mile is to surprise the soldier with love and start a conversation.
All through the Bible there are examples of enemy love. Elijah heals the widow’s son, Elisha healed Naaman the leper, God sends Jonah to warn Ninivah and Jesus just says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
I wonder if this is some sort of divine example. As a people who have been ruined by sin are we the enemies of God? Does God love us anyway? Does God now call us friends? Maybe God wants us to love our enemies because it is exactly what he is doing with us.
Some might remain enemies. Some notice the act of love, begin a conversation and realize that they don’t really want a fight. They realize that a friendship really is the best way to go.