It’s Time… to Love Enemies

Kayaking on Black Creek, Rochester, New York
Kayaking on Black Creek, Rochester, New York

A couple of weeks ago, my dad asked each of us to come up with a song that meant something to us.  It could be anything from “I just like this song” to “This song means so much to me because it carried me through such-and-such.”  I like a lot of songs, so my problem was narrowing down the options!  But I finally settled on this one:

“It’s time to love some enemies

Start livin’ and make some memories

It’s time to dream again

And show the world what they’ve been missin’

It’s time – this time –

To risk it all, to leave it all behind.”*

Views south from Siyeh Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana
Views south from Siyeh Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana

At this point in my life, that chorus is sort of like a journal entry, or a list of what I want my life to be.  I hadn’t realized until this season that I had enemies – not on the face of it; I was very cordial and could talk the talk.  But there were people in my life that I still held accountable for their actions, things that people had done that still defined my worldview.  It was the last step of forgiveness to truly begin loving them – in their foibles and failures, in letting go of others’ actions so I could be free to live like Jesus and not like these people had taught me to “be careful”.

Daffodils at Bear Creek Harbor, New York

(Note: I do believe that we should learn from our failures and the thing that happen in our lives.  It’s one of the definitions of wisdom in Proverbs.  But that’s not an excuse to hide behind hurt and “experience”.)

Petrified wood near the King of Wings, New Mexico
Petrified wood near the King of Wings, New Mexico

And then there are people in my life who would like me to think that they’re my enemy.  For whatever reason, they’ve decided that they don’t really like me, so they’re going to try and make sure that I don’t like them.

Scrambling around Zapata Falls, Colorado
Scrambling around Zapata Falls, Colorado

The fun part about this is that I don’t have to hate them.  I have the choice to love when they hate.  I have the choice to bless when they curse.  It isn’t necessarily easy, but while I make the choices, the power to live out the right choice comes from God.  And my choice is really whether to accept His help or to react with the worldview of, “hate those who hate you.”

Wildflower on St. Paul Peak, Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Montana
Wildflower on St. Paul Peak, Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Montana

I could quote the verses like, “On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head”” (Romans 12:20).  Or, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45a)  They’re great platitudes, and perhaps even helpful if you have time to think about it in the moment.

An arch in Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
An arch in Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

But what I’m finding is that you need more than a memory verse to love enemies.  Loving enemies doesn’t come instantly from a choice of, “I will love them, I will love them.”  Loving enemies comes from a heart of love, birthed from the heart of our heavenly Father.  That’s what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5, when He told us to love and pray for our “enemies” “so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”  That’s how the Father lives, and as His children, He is training us in the things that are on His heart.  He is love, and so we are learning to also have a heart of love – even for our enemies.

*”Time” by Jake Hamilton; click the link to listen.