Matthew 5:43-48 NIV
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
For a few years now, I’ve been struggling with the idea of forgiveness. How do you forgive? How do you know if you’ve truly forgiven someone? If I forgive, does that mean I’m condoning the other person’s actions? Does it mean I will stop hurting?
Yesterday, I read a blog post that got me thinking on this subject all over again. Before you keep reading, I suggest you check this out: Battlefield H8
Over the years, I have been deeply hurt by a few people. People that I cared for. People that I loved.
Forgiveness didn’t come easily. Heck, I didn’t even want to forgive at times. I wanted to hate. I wanted to cut them out of my life. Forever! Yeah, pretty dramatic. I know!
For some reason, I felt like I was giving them exactly what they deserved by hating them. The problem is, they had no idea what was going on in my heart or in my mind. They weren’t suffering at all because of what they did, or because of how much I hated them.
I was the only one suffering…
There was something wrong with my plan. Maybe I should think this through. Hating wasn’t helping anyone. It was just hurting me. I was hurt enough already, I didn’t need to hurt ME too!
Maybe I should consider forgiveness. But how do I do this? I certainly didn’t want to go see these people and say: “Hey, I don’t like what you did to me, but I forgive you”. I didn’t have that in me. No way.
But then I learned that forgiveness had nothing to do with the other person. It has everything to do with me. I don’t even have to tell the other person I forgave them. Imagine that!
I tried to put myself in their shoes. Tried to understand why they did what they did. That was hard. Yet it gave me a new perspective on this hurt. It didn’t excuse it by a long shot, but I understood a bit better. A bit.
Then I prayed about these people. It’s true that it’s harder to hate someone you’ve been praying for. That helped a lot. I still pray for the ones who hurt me. I’ve come to understand that in reality, I don’t really hate the person. I hate what they’ve done. The choices that they made.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying I started to like them again. By any means, I learned after the first time. I’m not about to let them hurt me again. Keeping my distance and protecting my heart are necessary. But I was able to let go of my anger, my hatred. What they’ve done still hurts, but I don’t feel the need to revisit that moment anymore. I don’t feel the desire to punish them anymore. I just want to leave it all behind me, move forward and heal.
“Pray for those who persecute you”. That is a good place to start the healing process. It’s very difficult at first. You may not even mean it. But don’t give up. The more you pray for them, the easier it gets and the more sincere your prayers become. You’ll actually want the best for them someday.
Now that I’ve forgiven the ones who have hurt me, well…now what? What do I do now? This is where I’m at. There’s one person who has hurt me that isn’t a part of my life anymore. It’s easy to move on from the things she did to hurt me. I don’t see her anymore.
It’s not the same thing for the other people who hurt me. They are part of my life and I can’t change that. Well, I could, but it wouldn’t be pretty. So how do I deal with hurt and forgiveness when I keep seeing the people who hurt me? When some of them even continue to hurt me (since you know, I can’t hide in my house forever…sigh). I try to protect my heart, but it’s very hard.
I’m the kind of person who hates confrontations. I get all flushed, clammy and nauseous at the idea of confronting someone.
I’ve been reading a great book by Lysa Terkeurst: Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions . Among all the useful information I read in this book, there’s one I’ll share with you: I need a plan. Yup! That simple.
So since I know I will continue to see these people on a regular basis, I need to come up with a plan in advance (no being caught off-guard) and decide how I will react when they say or do something hurtful. I need to set my limits and then have a plan when someone crosses my lines. That way I can react appropriately. I can address the situation in a way that keeps me in control of myself and my emotions.
Sometimes, instead of waiting for someone to cross the line before being addressed, I may need to stop things before they start. Like kindly reminding someone to mind their own business. Respectfully changing the conversation before it becomes uncomfortable.
This is something I’m still working on. Being able to speak what’s on my mind while still being polite. Full of mercy and grace. Balancing being open about how I feel without attacking. I often say the wrong thing or I don’t say anything at all.
The people who offend me are human. They make mistakes too. They put their foot in their mouth too. They have regrets and hurt just like me. In their own way. I have to learn to love them. Somehow. In some way.
Love does conquer all. Love does heal wounds.
I must start with love. I must love as Christ Jesus loves me. It’s a tall order, but I must try. I’m not there yet, but I must keep trying.
If all I do is love the ones who love me, what reward will I get? Everyone can do that. What sets Christians apart from others is their ability to love. The ability to love the “unlovable”. The undeserving. That is what I must strive for.
Loving them doesn’t mean I have to let them into my life again. I can still protect my heart and love from a distance. Love looks different with everyone. But I must find a way to love.