You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ~Matthew 5:43-48
I have started and stopped writing this blog for weeks as I wrestle with this passage of Scripture. An underlying question keeps haunting me: “Am I learning to love my enemies and willing to pray for them?” I still don’t have a definitive answer, but I do want to love others well because I am so blessed each new day as I see the kind of love the Father has for me as a child of God (1John 3:1).
So if I am honest with myself, I realize just how quickly I can choose whether someone is my friend or my enemy. I can expect others to be who I want them to be or I can accept them as the gift they are in my life. Moreover, I am confronted with the choice of whether to seek to live at peace with others as far as it depends on me.
Dallas Willard’s insights in Renovation of the Heart have been helpful as I reflect on my own ability to love others well.
Even in cases where, through no fault of my own, there must be a struggle between me and others, there does not have to be s struggle within me. I may have to resist others, for some good reason, but even so I do not have to make things come out right. I am not the one in control of outcomes. I do not have to hate those whose course of action I resist, or even get mad at them, and so I can always be at peace within myself as well as toward them (pp134-135).
May you and I prayerfully love and live at peace with ourselves and other simply because God first loved us.
Great line about not carrying the external conflict yourself.