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Thoughts on Loving your enemies - part 4

Jesus teaches those of us who follow him to love our enemies and actively seek their good even when they are doing the opposite to us.

In the previous three posts we looked at three important steps in growing to be people who automatically love our enemies:
  • We need to form the intention to become the sort of person who automatically loves their enemies (it is very hard to start doing it in the middle of a war!)
  • We need to learn that whatever else is going on, we are perfectly safe in God's Kingdom and nothing can separate us from God's love.  That knowledge begins to free us from the need for a fight or flight response to attack.
  • To love our enemies we don't need an emotional bypass - but we do need an emotional transformation.  We need to ask God to turn your angerrrr into anguish.  Compassion is a better motivation for action than anger.
If we have taken the previous steps seriously then our attitudes to our enemies and our immediate reactions to them will be transformed.  The final area we need to consider is what we actually do in considered response to our enemies.  For this we need God's wisdom as each situation will be different and we need to avoid the idea that there is always a standard response that must be followed.
  • James 3:17 "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."
  • Then "If any of you lacks (this sort of) wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)
Whatever we do (or don't do) in response to our enemies actions, it can be summarized as acting in the opposite spirit - eg patience for impatience, generosity for greed, forgiveness for bitterness, grace for accusation.  Paul talks about this clearly in Romans 12: 14,17-21:
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.....Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 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." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Once we have identified what we could do, we also need to identify when to do it.  Sometimes people are not ready or appropriately responsive to 'actions in the opposite spirit'.  So Jesus advised his followers:
  • (Matt 10:16b) "Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves". 
    • So just like snakes we need to bide our time but in a transparent and innocent way.
As a case study of the expert, Jesus, it is worthwhile reading through the record of his betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion.  As you do look for how and when Jesus responds - it is always in the opposite spirit but sometimes he is silent, sometimes he agrees, and sometimes he challenges.  He knows what to do AND when to do it.

As you go on the journey to being able to easily and naturally love your enemies, you will experience successes and you will also experience times when you could have done better.  Don't be discouraged by the 'failures' rather view them as an opportunity to revisit these four main points and deepen your understanding and experience of each of them.
  • Form the intention to become the sort of person who automatically loves their enemies
  • Learn that whatever else is going on, we are perfectly safe in God's Kingdom and nothing can separate us from God's love.
  • Ask God to turn your angerrrr into anguish. 
  • Seek Godly wisdom in how and when to act in the opposite spirit.
May God bless you in your endevours, He will surely be with you

David Wanstall, 30/06/2010