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Scripture Reference: 1st John 4: 7-12
God is the origin of Love
Therefore, Love is our identity.
God is the model of love
Therefore, Love first and love big.
by Scott Sutton
It’s easy for me to love my daughter. She’s 5 years old. She’s cute. She has never hurt me. She has never let me down. She’s affectionate toward me. We share blood. DNA. And did I mention how cute she was? It’s easy for me to love my “baby girl”.
It’s hard for me to love my enemy. It’s hard for me to love the person who cuts me off on the highway, the person who undermines me at work, the person who takes and takes and takes from me without any reciprocation. It’s hard for me to love the hateful, judgmental, prejudiced people in my life. The people who wrong me, attack me, or curse me.
I once read the acts of Jesus in the gospels as examples of the things I should be doing. Jesus cared for hurting people. He fed hungry people. He welcomed the outcasts. So those are the things I should be doing, too, right? All of that is absolutely true. But it hit me a few years ago that it’s only half of the gospel. When I read the gospels as a model for how I should live, I read myself into the role of Jesus, neglecting to acknowledge that first and foremost I am the “other” people in these stories. I am the thief. I am the murderer. I am the prostitute. I am the throngs of people pressing Jesus for more, more, more. I am the people who spat upon Jesus as he carried his instrument of death to his own execution. I am Pontius Pilate washing my hands of responsibility. I am the hypocrites who condemned Jesus. I am Peter, betraying my best friend in his hour of greatest need.
…God loves me nonetheless.
When I read the gospels – the WHOLE gospel – I am confronted with not only a call to love my enemies, but the sobering reality that I was once God’s enemy. And he loved me nonetheless.
A few years ago, I was caught in a situation with a person who considered me an enemy. This person spoke to me with abusive, slanderous, even threatening language. Because of this, I began to consider them as an enemy, too. The right thing was for us to separate our lives from one another, at least for a season. But even through that separation I harbored such animosity for this person every time they crossed my mind. I hated that about myself. A few months ago I was thinking about this person and I prayed. I had prayed for them several times before, but it typically went something like, “God, change them. Fix them. Make them see how they are wrong.” But this time I was the one who was changed. This time, the prayer came out no different than the ones I pray for the people who I love most. I prayed for this person’s well being, that the things they feel called to would come to fruition, that obstacles would be removed from their path. And every prayer for this person since then has been the same.
That’s it. No great reconciliation. No Hollywood ending. Not yet, at least. Maybe someday. Who knows?
For me, for this situation, the change was borne out of an acknowledgement that this person has done nothing to me that is any worse than what I have done to the one I call Savior. And yet…my Savior loves me nonetheless.
And so at the end of it all, I am confronted with this: Love my enemy, not only because Jesus loved his enemies, but because he loved me when I was his enemy.