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Thinking of Others – Our Enemies

Our Focus Scripture -“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Php 2:3  ESV.

In part five of this six part series, we shall look at our focus scripture as, “In humility, count your enemies more significant than ourselves.  I will not mince any words here.  This is probably the most difficult of all the others we have looked at so far.  I find it difficult to do this.  However, as with other commands God has given us, we really are not given a choice.  We must love our enemies.  Here is what Jesus said in His famous Sermon on the Mount.  “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.”  Mat 5:43-48.

Let us parse this passage.  Many people tell us that we are to love all we come into contact with except, of course, our enemies.  They have done us wrong.  They have hurt us, deceived us, stolen from us, or many other terrible things.  Why should we love them?  What have they done to deserve our love and care?  In fact, many times people speak ill of them, desiring that terrible things happen to them.  However, who are we to be like?  Other men, or God?  As we see here, He treats all the same, providing the warm sun and the rain to both the evil and the good, the unjust and just.  As Christians, we are the Children of God, and we are to emulate Him, as much as it is possible.  Everyone does the easy stuff.  It is easy to love my family and friends,  But is it so easy for us to love someone who has hurt me or stolen from me?  Remember, God created a perfect universe for us, with a beautiful planet for us to live on.  He loved us with a great love, yet we rebelled and rejected His ways.  He did not cast us away.  In fact, before He created us, He knew we would fall and created us anyway, providing a way that we could be reconciled with Him and live forever in His presence.  And that kind of love is what He is asking of us.  Not to do as the world does, but to love all men, even those who hate us.

I now ask the question, how far do we take this command?  Is He really asking me to love someone who has done a terrible thing to me or someone I love?  When I graduated from High School I left home and went into the Air Force.  After some time, I received a call from my older sister and while talking, she told me she had been raped several times by our neighbor and by the father of a friend of mine I knew in school and church.  I could hear the sadness in her voice.  I, on the other hand was extremely angry.  I will not say what thoughts came to my mind, but they were not loving ones.  How could these men who I knew well and enjoyed talking with do something so horrible.  And it started earlier than I could have imagined.  She already struggled with acceptance issues, but to be forcibly raped on top of it all.  It began a decline in her life that resulted in long term amnesia and schizophrenia.  I was angry.  I wanted to hurt them.  Was this justified in this situation?  The apostle Paul said the following, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”  Eph 4:26-27.  We are called to forgive.  In the same way as God the Father forgave those who crucified His Son.  I never had the opportunity to speak with the two men who did this.  And I will say it took time to forgive and put it behind me.   But I did have the opportunity to speak with my older sister before she passed away.  She had put it all behind her and moved on.

When Jesus was on the cross, he said something that I find very profound when applied to situations we find ourselves in.  “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”  Luk 23:24.  Jesus knew they did not understand what Francis Schaeffer called “true truth”, otherwise known as the real reality.  They only knew the reality that they lived in their own life, not realizing the true reality that the God of the universe was the one hanging on that cross to save them.  And the same is true today.  Those who are our enemies, such as ISIS, thieves, human traffickers, and even child rapists do not truly understand true truth.  They only see their life and what is in it for them.  We need to see our enemies as more significant then ourselves.  Not that we condone any action, but loving them as Christ loves them, forgiving them and helping them, if possible, to accept the reality of their situation and guiding them to the grace that God has for them.

In closing, I would like to include this story, told by Corrie Ten Boom regarding forgiveness.  It is a true story of an event that took place in her life.  It has done much to help me in difficult times.

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Corrie Ten Boom Story on Forgiving

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’

“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]

“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”

(excerpted from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive” by Corrie ten Boom. Reprinted by permission from Guideposts Magazine. Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts Associates, Inc., Carmel, New York 10512>).

Categories: Theology, Uncategorized
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