Love My Enemy? (3)

When we have tried to forgive a person who has offended us or brought deep sorrow into our lives, we have not yet finished the process. First, let’s examine our own hearts a bit more carefully. When we get angry with someone who has hurt us, or who hates us, or even just fails to show love for us, with whom are we really angry? The obvious answer is, I am upset with that person, of course! Yes, but if this person is important enough to us, and if the condition persists chronically, or if the injury is really deep and damaging, something else takes place in the recesses of our soul. In particular, of the “enemy” lives in my house, or otherwise confronts me frequently with enmity, my disappointment can run so deep that my heart breaks and perhaps even feels dead. To be attacked by a felon on the street is traumatic enough, but to be let down, or even abused, by those who should love me, can drive a stake into my heart. Often without knowing it, we then begin to expand the circle of our “enemies” to include Another – the One who allowed this to happen when He could have prevented it. Where was He when my father left my mother for another woman? Or when he abused me or my mother? Or when my own mother just had no time for her little child? Where is he when my husband just can find any affection for me in his heart, or can’t express what little he feels? Why can’t the Lord of heaven and earth control my wife’s emotions and her tongue? And why didn’t he protect – or restrain – my child? Indeed, we have met the Enemy, and He is God. Now we really have a problem! For there is not a Judge higher than the one who sits upon the throne of heaven. We have no one to whom we can appeal His judgments, must lest bring charges against Him. We are stuck with a Foe whom we cannot evade or defeat. We used to pray glibly, or by rote memory, “They will be done.” Now that His will has been done, we hate it, and maybe even Him as well. How, then, shall we forgive not only other people, but God as well? Now let us consider how we can love our enemies, including God. Simply put, we can love those who hate us and treat us like enemies by remembering how God has treated us. When someone hurts us or shows hostility towards us, we tend to feel like victims. Why has he done this to me? What have I done to deserve such injury? We focus on the injustice of it all, and upon the bad character of our “enemy,” who has hurt us so much. Self-pity fills our heart. After that, rage rushes in. We are angry, and justly so, we believe. Resentment festers, until we want either to ignore that person, or injure him in return. After all, we have been wronged; we deserve justice; if we can’t make him pay, we can at least withhold affection and kindness. It seems so right and proper. Jesus challenges this entire way of thinking, as does Paul. Remember, they say, that God has been kind to you. And who am I? Responding to a rich young man who imagined that he had kept all God’s commands, Jesus said, “There is no one good but God.” Paul attacks the self-righteousness of the Jews by quoting the Old Testament: “There is none righteous; no, not one.. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). That fact means that, before we believed in Christ, we were not only “ungodly” and “sinners,” but actually “enemies” of God, and subject to His righteous wrath and indignation (Romans 5:6, 8, 10). At that point, when we were utterly without merit, and certainly did not deserve His love, God had mercy upon us: “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death” (Colossians 1:21-22). So, before rushing off to judge someone who has harmed us or disappointed us, and certainly before resentment has settled into our soul, let us stop and remember who God treated us when we were His enemies. And before we accuse God of injustice, let us recall our true condition before Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. It is we who are on trial, not the Judge of all the earth. And it is He who has forgiven us. How did He make it possible for us to become His friends, even His children? By sending His only Son Jesus to die in our place, the just for the unjust. In short, God brought reconciliation to us by allowing – even sending – His beloved Son to become His enemy. On the Cross, the awful wrath and righteous indignation was poured out upon the only one Who did not deserve it. “He who know now sin was made to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In this one all, all enmity between us and God was swallowed up in endless love. Now let the feast begin.