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 your Heavenly Father is 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.
Thank you for sharing your story and your heart. More people need to hear messages like this. God is in the business of love and forgiveness and we should be also. It isn’t easy to get to that point at times, but like you experienced, it sure is wonderful when we do get there!
Smiles and Blessings,
Judi, Thank you so much for your transparency. Forgiveness, when we’ve been hurt so deeply, is next to impossible apart from the grace of God. But you’re right – it is so freeing.
Wonderful, wonderful post, Judi! So clearly written that I can in a small way feel how you felt that day! Thank you so much!
Dear MistiPearl and Renae,
Thank you for your kind encouragement.
It is so true that forgiveness is beyond our human power to achieve.
But this in itself is freeing because we only have to be willing and He does the rest.
It’s the breaking of our will that is the difficult barrier, but once that barrier is crossed, we open the door to go beyond forgiveness to the kind of love that actually, miraculously not only forgives but “forgets” the offense.
Very poignant Judi. It takes a lot of courage to forgive when you have come face to face with evil. If you don’t let the hatred go it weighs you down forever.
Thank you, Jeanette and Lilly,
The courage to forgive comes from the Lion living in our hearts.
With Him and Only HIM….
ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE !!!!
You are a very brave lady, and your post made me think. This was regarding such a big change in your life which you held another person responsible for, and you found it in your heart to forgive and offload the troubled thoughts. And we make such a fuss about little hurts……
Thank you, Muse and suranga,
I appreciate your comments so.
Perhaps, suranga, my sensation of joy and freedom was so great for the very reason that I had forgiven such a deep wound.
I just rejoice that I am free of bitterness where this person is concerned and can truly look at her now with eyes of love.
God is so good.
Amazing! Just goes to show that NOTHING is too big for our God. I can’t even imagine what a struggle that must have been to go through and I don’t know if I could have even been “”big enough” to forgive like that, but Praise God it happened for you!
Thank you, Mommy Cracked,
I so appreciate your comment that NOTHING is too big for our God. It is a truth we must never forget: broken marriages, like mine; broken friendships; broken people, physically and emotionally – we’ve all been there wondering how God was going to pick up the pieces.
But the Creator who created the pieces in the first place knows exactly how to put them back together, and when He does they fit more seamlessly than they ever did before.
That’s the Miracle and that’s why opening ourselves to forgiveness is worth every struggle and effort it requires of us.
Thank you. There is someone I too need to forgive.
Very wise words indeed!
It is hard for us to understand, but harboring resentment and hate is actually only infecting ourselves. The most unhappy people in this world have not forgiven others. With forgiveness comes peace, not just from above, but inside our own hearts.
Thanks for sharing your story. God is great and will help us through anything, if we will trust him and lean on him. Look to God for guidance and you will be able to find the way. Thanks, Judi for giving hope to others (myself included) that have people they need to forgive….nothing is unattainable with God by your side.