You Are Someone's Enemy
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
—Luke 6:27-36 (Read Luke 6)
My aunt has enemies. That makes it sound like she's in the mob or a gang. She's not. She has enemies that she cares for but cannot stand, people that inspire her to scream, people she cannot fathom changing or being good. Some of those people are all of the above. After not seeing my aunt for five years, we talked about enemies. What do our enemies act like, what do they say, what do they do, how do they do it, and honestly, how dare they?
But we also talked about how to love them. Y'all have likely heard the love your neighbor and love your enemy commands by now. If you haven't, it's a thing, God says it. How do we love our enemies?
I'll tell you right now, one of my enemies is my own cousin. He lives his life like what he has, he’s earned, like his belongings are his own--not like God has shown him mercy for his sins and allowed him the grace of a beautiful and spunky daughter. He thinks we are all dealt hands of similar calibers and scrutinizes those struggling--not caring about systematic inequalities or having compassion on people in situations he could not begin to understand. I could go on. He is my family, and I do love him. He is also my enemy. My cousin inspires me to want to scream, to call him stupid, to flick his ear, to force him to have my perspective. But God inspires me to listen for as long as I can and then a little more, to hear him as a broken and hurting person. My cousin has been sinned against and hurt. He is certainly guilty, but he is also a victim. My enemy is a victim of a broken world. We are all victims of this broken world.
Some of our enemies are people who have sinned against us personally or against people we love, people whom our hearts go out for. Some of our enemies are outside the Church, people who just don't get it yet. They haven't seen God trying to guide them, and they fall short of what He has in store for them. They fall short of what we view as good, kind and holy. Some of our enemies are within the Church and we still see them falling short--which is going to happen sometimes; at different points, we all behave as if we don't know Jesus, as if He hasn't changed everything, as if He hasn't set us free from sin.
But have you ever thought about how you are somebody else's enemy?
Maybe you became their enemy before you knew Jesus, maybe after. Maybe you became their enemy due to your sin, their sin, your holiness in Christ, or their holiness in Christ. They may or may not know God. Maybe you have never even interacted with them, but your beliefs, past or present, make you their enemy. Man, it could be anything! The fact is: you are somebody's enemy.
My aunt shook her head in refusal when I told her I was somebody's enemy. She told me that no one was as kind as me and could not come to terms with my role as an "enemy." To whom could I be an enemy?
Goodness, where do I start? Let's start with God Himself. Jesus loved us when we were still enemies. I was His enemy when I did not know Him. I was cruel and unloving to my family and people at my school. I said horribly targeted words meant to delve into people's cores; I knew that I was good at it, and I was proud about that. I bullied someone when I was nine and got into full out fist fights with my sister until middle school. I was likely those people’s enemy.
More than that: by failing to love them, I failed to love God. I was His enemy.
The fact that I am an enemy means a lot. It means that I have less of a grounds for hating my enemies. The fact that I have enemies because of my sin is humbling. It's a good check to my pride and self-righteousness.
Y'all, as much as I don't deserve it, I want people to love me. I want Jesus to love me, and I'm glad He did so when I was His enemy. I also want those that I am an enemy to, to love me. To not return hurt that I have caused them or their loved ones. To listen to me when I am hurting or lacking knowledge. To not speak horribly of me to their friends. And I want them to pray for me, for my good, for the good God wants for me. I want them to have faith in my God-given goodness, even if they cannot see a single shred of it.
Who are your enemies? How do your enemies and the way you think about them change you? How do they challenge you for the better? How have they built your patience? How does knowing that you were a loved enemy of God affect your life? Who else are you an enemy to, and how does that influence you?
My Love, help us to think humbly and hope for reconciliation. When the time comes for us to love our enemies, let us remember You and Your love. Bring us low.
—Breaunna Villapier serves on Cornerstone’s Cross-Cultural Ministry Team.