From the moment I felt the tug of the Holy Spirit to write this article, I knew it wasn’t going to be a simple “how-to” piece with steps one, two, and three. What I didn’t expect, was the stubborn retaliation of my own mind that tried to come up with a dozen reasons why we deserve to hate our enemies—especially ISIS.
Holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom, described this very real and human struggle in her book The Hiding Place. She wrote about the moment she came face-to-face with her enemy, a former prison guard, who had done horrible things to her and her sister in a Nazi concentration camp.
On that particular day, Corrie had just finished speaking to a group of people in the war-torn city of Munich, Germany. Her message had ended with the reminder that when one confesses their sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, never to return.
And that’s when she saw him—the former guard who had stripped them of their clothing and paraded them around like animals. He had beaten and starved them. Ultimately, he had aided in Corrie’s sister’s death. Yet there he stood, in that church basement, asking the impossible…
“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there…”
“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”
“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.” (read more here)
How often has the temperature of our hearts frozen our ability to love?
If you’re like me, you can’t help but wonder if God really expects us to love our enemies. What about the worst of the worst? What about ISIS?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45 NKJV)
As I read that familiar passage—Jesus’ own words—I assume there must be exceptions, right? Perhaps, the enemies in Jesus’ day weren’t so terrible. Maybe those enemies were somehow easier to love.
Then I remember…
King Herod, who was so jealous of the Christ child that he ordered the slaughter of all the baby boys under the age of two, was an enemy just like ISIS. And I know. I know that Jesus’ words apply to all enemies under the sun.
The big question is how? How on earth can we possibly get past the reality of their horrific actions and genuinely love them?
1. “Bless those who curse you…”
The Greek form of the word “bless” in this passage is to invoke upon one absolutely.
Now, in my lack of “Biblical-Scholarliness,” I don’t assume to fully understand the depth of the meaning. But when I look at the word “invoke,” I know that it means to “implore.”
I can implore God to bless my enemies.
I can ask the Living God to breathe new life into their hearts and bless them with His presence.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)
2. “Do good to those who hate you…”
I recently heard someone say, “The real reason the enemy hates people is because they are made in God’s image.”
We are a constant reminder to the enemy of who God is. Everywhere Satan looks, he sees men and women created in the image of God. And he hates us.
ISIS’ mission is to steal, kill, and destroy. That tells us that they have been deceived by the enemy of their souls. Let’s not join them. Let’s retaliate by doing “good” to those who hate us, not by rewarding them, but by loving them despite their evil deeds.
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you." (Proverbs 25:21-22 NKJV)
3. “Pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you…”
Of all the things I don’t understand about loving our enemies, I am absolutely certain of one thing. They need our prayers.
Think of it this way. If you were deceived, caught up in horrific sin, and considered completely lost, what would be the most beneficial thing a Christian could do for you?
Or intercede for you?
Oh, how desperately our enemies need the prayers of the saints! Prayers for their salvation, prayers that God will thwart their evil plans, and prayers for God’s divine intervention are needed more than any other thing!
I am thankful for the prompting of the Holy Spirit to write this piece. Even though it challenged me to rethink some things and to come to terms with the condition of my own “sub-zero” heart, I am thankful.
Honestly, I never want to know the pain that Corrie ten Boom went through. I never want to come face-to-face with enemies like ISIS. But I do want to know the deep, indescribable love of God—the love that goes beyond any reasonable expectation and guides me to extend a hand of mercy—no matter the temperature of my heart.
Jennifer Waddle is best known for words of encouragement as an Author, Speaker and Musician for Women’s Ministry. She currently has three published books on Amazon and is a regular contributor for WomensMinistryTools.com and GotQuestions.org. Jennifer is committed to sharing authentic messages of hope to women of all walks of life. She loves being a wife of 24 years, mom of four, and nana of two. Most of all, she cherishes her time spent in the Word of God, with a cup of coffee and a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains. Contact Jennifer here: www.jenniferwaddleonline.com or [email protected]
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: January 31, 2017