HOW TO DEAL WITH ENEMIES (PART 1)
“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.” Luke 6:27 (The Message)
Here it comes, the part of the disposition of kingdom people that cuts deep into our souls and exposes the self-centredness that is the operating system of our hearts. How is it possible to treat an “enemy” with kindness and to turn a potentially explosive situation into an opportunity to put God’s splendour on display (Isaiah 61:3)? Jesus outlines the steps to turn conflict into compassion and to defuse hatred and enmity. Retaliation fuels the fire. What will extinguish it?
The first thing is prayer – changing my awareness from myself to God and placing Him in the centre of the situation. We have no natural capacity to love our enemies, but our Father’s disposition is compassion. As we become aware of Him in these circumstances, we step aside and give Him space to do His work in our hearts, both in our enemy’s and ours, to remove the heat and turn on the light! The most important thing is that we do not elevate ourselves above our enemy in our hearts, thinking we are better than he. To hold an attitude of contempt is to place ourselves outside of God’s grace.
Step two is to bring our enemy and us onto level ground. As much as our attitude of contempt must be changed, so must our enemy’s. How do we do that? By turning the other cheek and by giving away our “tunic”, i.e., by teaching our enemy to treat us with dignity. “To turn the other cheek” is to force our opponent to slap us with his “clean” right hand, on our left cheek, making him acknowledge that we are his equal. It is not about becoming someone’s doormat. Jesus never condones that attitude. If we humble ourselves, it must be our choice, not someone else’s force.
Thirdly, we must hold our possessions lightly. They must never become a source of conflict. They are on loan from God to be used to help others, not to be enslaved by them. How we handle our "stuff” is an exposure of what we regard as our source. If we willingly give and share, we are bearing witness to our trust in God, not in what we own. Our “stuff” is there to create and enhance our connectedness with people and our recognition of their need. Our attitude to others must never be dictated by their attitude toward us but by the generosity of God’s attitude to all people.
How different the outcome of our conflicts would be if we applied Jesus’ simple, but not easy, principles. The instruction is clear, but our proud hearts block the way to living like Jesus did.