Tag Archives: Enemies

Called Still Deeper

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

I have a confession to make this morning. I’ve been aggravated recently with a particular relational scar. It’s a past injury. Call it near ancient history. I forgave. We moved on and our paths led different places in life. It’s easy to forget past injuries when you don’t really have to continue in relationship with the person you’ve forgiven. Now,  years later I look to the horizon and our paths appear to once again be converging.

My scar itches.

I was struck this morning by Peter’s command, not just to love but to love deeply. And the reason for the call to this deep love is forgiveness. Forgiveness is a tough one, and Jesus certainly addressed it head on. Peter knew this only too well, because it was his question that prompted Jesus to address the matter:

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

“The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’

“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Ironic that Peter would ask about forgiveness when it would be he who three times denied that he even knew Jesus, who heard the rooster crow, who looked into the eyes of his Lord at that very moment and experienced the need of seventy-times-seven forgiveness. Peter knows all about deep love and forgiveness.

Some other words of Jesus come to mind this morning as I ponder:

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

I sit in the quiet this morning with my itchy scar, and I’m reminded that Jesus command to love others was never just about loving those who are easy for me to love and those with whom I don’t have to be in relationship. Jesus calls me to follow deeper on the path of love. To follow Jesus is to push into the deep waters of Love that He waded into when He forgave my heaping helpings of weakness, foolishness, and failings. That was the whole point of His parable of the indebted servant. I have been forgiven for so much, how can I not forgive another for so much less even if I have to keep forgiving in exponential measure.

I’m seeing myself in Jesus parable this morning. If my love is not deep enough to salve itchy old relational scars of an already forgiven issue in the past then it is, plain and simple, not deep enough.

Today, I’m pushing deeper.

Every Leader Wears a Target

The burden bearers carried their loads in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and with the other held a weapon.
Nehemiah 4:17 (NRSV)

Along life’s journey I’ve learned that when set yourself up to lead almost any effort, no matter how noble your intent, you will always encounter opposition. Parents trying to lead their family well will experience opposition from children, so-called experts, other parents telling them they’re doing it wrong, or the grandparents telling them they’re screwing up the kids. Teachers leading a classroom have to wear emotional body armor against the slings and arrows they get from all sides. Every preacher on Sunday morning, no matter how true his or her message, has at least a few congregation members who will serve up roast pastor for their Sunday dinner. The greater the task being led, the more virulent the opposition will be.

patton george bailey w text

In this life, God has not led me on roads where I have been called upon to take on monumental leadership roles. I have never been Patton called on to lead armies in saving the free world from Hitler’s minions. I have always been George Bailey fighting the relatively silly skirmishes of Bedford Falls. Still, I am always amazed at how universally this paradigm holds true. People are people. Stand in a position of leadership and you wear a target on your chest.

So it was that Nehemiah and the people building the walls of Jerusalem encountered opposition from their neighbors and enemies in today’s chapter. Their enemies did not want the wall rebuilt. They did not want Judah to rebuild its regional power. They wanted the walls and gates to remain in heaps of rubble. And so, with the threat of their work being attacked, the laborers had to build the wall with one hand, and had to be prepared to defend their work with the other.

I love that word picture as I wear my relatively minor mantels of leadership. I have to be prepared for opposition as I lead any kind of task. Of course, I’ve also learned that not all opposition or criticism is malicious or divisive. Quite often it is criticism that makes me aware of my blind spots and helps me shore up areas of need. Wise King Solomon said, “The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy.” Word. I’ve discovered that wisdom is often required to discern the difference between constructive criticism and opposition of ill intent. I’m still learning.

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Of St. Paul, King Solomon and Albus Dumbledore

Dumbledore as portrayed by the late Richard Ha...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 4

We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. 1 Corinthians 4:12-13a (NLT)

I’ve been slowly working on a blog post about the life lessons I’ve taken away from J.K. Rowling‘s series of seven Harry Potter books. One of the lessons on my list comes from the character of Albus Dumbledore. In the books, Dumbledore is well-known as the only person that the evil antagonist, Lord Voldemort, fears. Harry Potter is continually reminded of what a great and powerful wizard Dumbledore is.

What is always fascinating to me with the stories is the way that Dumbledore, despite his legendary power and abilities, is always so meek and gracious even in the most conflictive situations with his enemies. It is well into the fourth book of the seven book series before Harry Potter witnesses even a hint of the potency that lay hidden behind Dumbledore’s perpetual smile and the kind eyes which peer out through half-moon spectacles.

As I’ve once more been making my way through the series of books and encountering the character of Dumbledore as he navigates tricky conflicts, a verse from King Solomon’s proverbs keeps popping into my mind: “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1)

The proverb popped in my head once more this morning as I read of Paul’s response to the adversity and conflict he continually faced as a follower of Jesus.

  • When people curse us ——> we bless them
  • When others abuse us ——> we are patient with them
  • When others say evil things about us ——> we appeal gently to them

As I watch the news and observe the culture around me, I see so much anger, hatred, and vitriol. We demand our way, belittle those those who disagree with us, and judge others harshly. Lately, God has been quietly reminding me of Solomon’s proverb, of Dumbledore, of Paul, and Jesus most of all. I don’t want to be a person who reacts to insult and injury with wrath and harsh words, but a person who responds in patience, and gentle kindness.

 

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 19

Chuck Colson On that Day, there will be a highway all the way from Egypt to Assyria: Assyrians will have free range in Egypt and Egyptians in Assyria. No longer rivals, they'll worship together, Egyptians and Assyrians! Isaiah 19:23 (MSG)

Charles Colson is well known in Christian circles for his teaching, his writing, and his ministry through Prison Fellowship. As the years go by, fewer and fewer people remember his incredible story. His life journey led to a pinnacle position among the conservative republicans and the political elite of the Nixon administration. Then came a rapid, deep descent he did not foresee. Colson was the first person convicted in the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon's resignation. Alone, broken, sitting in prison, Colson entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ and struck out on the path of redemption which would forever change his life and the lives of countless others.

What is often forgotten in Colson's story is the name of the person who visited him in prison and shared God's Message with him. It was not one of his political cronies. They all fled when he was convicted. His friends had also abandoned him in fear that they might be soiled by the Watergate scandal. The man who reached out to Colson was his political enemy. Harold Hughes was a liberal democrat, former governor of Iowa, and recovering alcoholic. Hughes visited Colson in prison, shared God's love with the pariah, and introduced Colson to Jesus.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to see Colson and Hughes reunited and hear them speak together. They were as opposite as opposites could be. Hughes the long-haired, liberal hippie and Colson the horn-rimmed, straight-laced conservative. I imagine that there was a lot on which the two disagreed. I was touched by watching the two of them together sharing their agreement on the single-most important truth. They were a living example of what happens when we follow Jesus' command and love our enemies.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and speakingoffaith

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 6

2008 12 31 New Years Eve Dinner Party LR "Not on your life!" said Elisha. "You didn't lift a hand to capture them, and now you're going to kill them? No sir, make a feast for them and send them back to their master."

So he prepared a huge feast for them. After they ate and drank their fill he dismissed them. Then they returned home to their master. The raiding bands of Aram didn't bother Israel anymore.
2 Kings 6:22-23 (MSG)

We like using our dining room. Necessity is a good part of the appeal. Our quaint little house does not have a kitchen big enough for a kitchen table, a bar, or a breakfast nook where many families snarf down their meals on the fly. So, we use the formal dining room a lot. We sit around the "good table." We like setting it nicely for family, friends and guests. You feel in less of a hurry when the meal is an event. You take more time. You eat a second helping. The conversation goes a little deeper.

There is something about the gift of hospitality that can soften the hard hearted. Sharing a good meal together eases tension, fosters conversation and deepens relationship.

Killing the Aramean raiding party would have only served to escalate the violence and tension between Israel and Aram. Elisha's solution was a good one. Treat them like an honored guest. Have a feast. Sit down over choice food and break out the good wine. Talk, laugh, and raise a glass together. You're less likely to kill the person with whom you shared a great meal.