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“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28

A couple weeks ago we went to a local apple orchard on our fall run to pick some fresh, crisp apples. As we were walking through the rows and rows of trees our conversation turned to the many types of apples there are. Some are sweet, some tart; some soft, some hard; some are good for eating right off the tree, others are better for pies, baking and apple sauce. Amazing the choices we have and there are new varieties coming out every year.

Enemies are like apples in a sense. There are all sorts of them out there. There are enemies a half a world away that we hear about on the news. We shake our heads at them and perhaps our fists. We pray for them, but for most of us, our prayers are vague, general voices of concern for people we’ve never met, and based on fear of our own safety and freedom.

There are the enemies based in the political arena, whether that is church politics or government. Again, we’ve never seen them but the choices they make directly, or indirectly affect our comfort and from time to time attack our convictions.

There is the unseen enemy of course. Satan, or one of his ugly cohorts, lurks behind every corner waiting to through darts of worry, temptation, judgmental, anger or a whole host of lies at us. Lies about our self-worth; lies about our God; lies about other people.

Perhaps the biggest enemy each of us faces every day is the enemy next door. I don’t mean your physical neighbor, but those who are closest to you emotionally. The child that no longer sees it necessary to follow your faith; the spouse who neglects, abuses or abandoned you, the boss who never sees anything you do as worthwhile. The friend or family member that misunderstands you, accuses you or makes you feel worthless. The parent who has never ever been there for you but now has all this advice to give you, advice you don’t need or want.

These enemies hurt the worst because, if we let them, they determine who we are, how we feel about ourselves and what God is like. They are the closest ones to us emotionally and can destroy us in a heartbeat with a flippant word, sarcasm or open attack.

It’s also these enemies that Jesus talked about on the hillside that day. He wasn’t telling the people to love some system that caused them pain. He was talking about the people we rub shoulders with every day. The ones that hurt us constantly. The people who, when we see them, cause the lump to form in your gut.

So, how can we do that? How can we love that person who hates the ground we walk on? How can we love that person who once professed to love us but has now turned their back on us? What Jesus is really commanding us to do is to counter every negative action directed towards us with a positive action. Sometimes that may mean that even though we have to remove ourselves from a harmful situation, we still refuse to speak evil of the person who attacked us. Sometimes it may mean praying a prayer that says, “God, I am supposed to pray for them but I’m so full of hurt right now I can’t. Help me.” I believe God honors the honest prayer of helplessness when we have to deal with the painful enemies of our heart.

I have to confess that the idea of being kind to people who have openly, intentionally and willfully attacked me isn’t pleasant. In fact, I struggle to do that. This is perhaps the hardest part of the Christian life, to love those in my circle who refuse to love back. So, how do we do it? Here are some suggestions from a person who has not yet attained.

  1. Remember that God DOES love you and understands how hard it is to love people who reject and hurt you. People do it to Him every day and since we are made in His image that means He feels that pain as well.
  2. Remember that God also created the ‘jerks’ of the world and His desire it to bring them to Himself, just as He did you.
  3. Remember that God realizes that you can’t do this on your own. It’s a process and requires that we lean heavily on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us.
  4. Lastly, Remember that we are told to love our enemies and as much as possible live at peace with them. Loving our enemies doesn’t necessarily mean we trust and live in relationship with those who have abused us physically, spiritually or emotionally.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father. I’m hurt. The hurt that I feel right now is the result of people who I thought I could trust who have turned on me. They are family members, friends, former lovers and/or even my own children. I feel completely alone and misunderstood here. Still, because of Jesus in my life I want to do as you’ve commanded. I want to love my enemies through the power of your Holy Spirit. Please help me have the wisdom and strength to love those nearest to me. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

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