Matthew 5:43 – 48 You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Let’s be honest: not many reading this post know the kind of enemy Jesus refers to: one who persecutes out of evil intent.
But Jesus reminds us that even God blesses the evil and the good with the rising of the sun and refreshing of the rain, and we should imitate His undiscriminating grace.
This is revolutionary, radical theology; beyond any “human” way of thinking.
Most of us do not come into direct contact with this kind of evil, this kind of enemy, in our lifetime.
For most of us the “enemy” lies closer to home and could not truly be described as evil.
But within the confines of our comfortable personal lives, “enemies” can still carve out pockets of un-forgiveness in our hearts.
Suddenly Jesus’ admonition to love our enemies speaks directly to us.
He then sets a standard for us: Be perfect…as youris perfect.
Wow, seems completely unattainable.
Let me tell you about an “enemy” I struggled to forgive and how Christ made “perfection” in this area attainable.
Some of you may know that, after 27 years of marriage, my faithful, devoted husband chose to leave.
Though early on I chose to forgive my husband, there was one party in this drama that remained my “enemy”: The other woman.
Over the years following the divorce I certainly gave lip service to grace toward her.
But in my heart of hearts I harbored bitterness.
It seemed, after all, like a benign growth – I hardly even thought about her.
Then, several years ago, God reminded me I had not truly pardoned this “enemy”.
I was listening to a tape series on forgiveness: the speaker painted a strong visual of Christ on the cross, verbally forgiving the very people who had put him there.
Immediately I thought of my failure to forgive my “enemy”.
Now I had done some very hard work in the area of forgiveness in my life. But this time, I have to admit, I thought God was asking a bit too much.
So, for several hours, God and I literally went round and round. The truly humorous part came when I thought I had God boxed into a corner!
Yeah, I thought I had Him: I had found a BIG loophole!
Believe me, I was pretty giddy about my impending victory.
Quite loudly, I declared: “Aha! You said: ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’. Well, that proves I don’t have to forgive her…BECAUSE SHE KNEW EXACTLY WHAT SHE WAS DOING!”
Of course, God wasn’t buying it.
He quietly replied: “Judi, she really didn’t know what she was doing, she didn’t set out to break up your marriage, and even if she had…you still need to forgive her!”
Man, there’s just no winning with God, is there?!
Deflated, I finally gave in: a pure act of will.
Plain and simple: “Ok, ok, I forgive her…but You KNOW I don’t really want to.”
And then I fell asleep.
I never expected the miracle that unfolded in the days that followed.
Out of nowhere, out of a complete void of feelings, God began to not just fill, but flood, my heart with love for this woman. Real love.
I can’t explain it. I won’t even try.
It was a God-thing and there’s no other explanation.
About a week later I had to send a package to my husband. For the first time since the divorce, I addressed the package, not to his office, but to their home.
As I wrote in bold marker, “Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Moran”, a momentary wave of sadness hit me. But when I sealed the package, including a loving note to both of them, complete peace returned.
I bundled up for the chill of early spring and set off by foot for the post office, my love missive in hand.
I will never forget how I felt on that walk: every step like a bounding leap, my feet barely touching the ground.
The sensation of buoyancy was so palpable, so powerful, I marveled out loud to God: “Wow, so this is what it feels like to be You!”
In those brief moments in time, in that errand of love, I was “perfect” as my Heavenly Father is perfect.
That moment of perfect transcendence quickly passed, but the love and joy and boundlessness in my heart that day will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Father, I so want to know the love and joy and boundlessness of your perfection. Help me this day to forgive those who have hurt me in large and small ways. I will to forgive them, Lord, knowing that is all You ask of me. I trust You to finish the work of forgiveness, by filling my heart with love for all.