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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Friend or Foe - Who Goes There?

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies. Pray for those who treat you badly. 45 If you do this, you will be children who are truly like your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:43-45 ERV)

I wonder if someone has to tell or teach us to hate one another, or if that is just something we come by naturally. Maybe it comes when we foster some sense of entitlement in our lives, believing others "owe us" because of something we believe we deserve. Perhaps it develops over time when we focus more and more on what we want more than on what another could want or need. It might even come when we get so caught up in comparing our differences that we cannot help but be angry or bitter over another's fortune, their status, or even their ability to enjoy life's simplicity. Regardless of how hatred develops, I know there is but one way for love to really take hold in our lives - through Christ Jesus.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." He was right - nothing short of love will ever overcome a sense of entitlement, the mystery of being so self-absorbed that we don't see others, or too enraged over dissimilarities that we cannot look past them. Love is impossible apart from God, for God is love "personified" - he is love in action. No matter how vile the mistreatment of Jesus was as he walked this earth, he didn't react with hatred or with "smiting" anyone. He is observed repeatedly giving light and truth, responding in kindness, and giving what was unexpected by those who didn't even know they had need.

Love isn't easy at times, because we find ourselves in situations where it is "hard" to love. We don't "feel" the love and it is hard to give out what we don't "feel". It is much easier to allow our feelings to dictate our responses, isn't it? We want to retaliate when wronged, because our feelings get us going in that direction. We want to throw a pity party when we don't get our way, simply because our feelings didn't get stroked the way we wanted them to be stroked. Feelings are fickle and are not very good indicators of the best actions to take, though! In fact, most of the time, unless the Spirit of God is invited to help us know when a feeling should be acted upon, we act upon some pretty "wrong" feelings!

Love may not be the easiest response in the light of disappointment, frustration, or fear, but it is the right one! It is possible only as long as we invite the Spirit of God to help us "filter" those emotions that get in the way of truly loving. It is only then we find ourselves on the path of transforming enemies into friends. Just sayin!