I don't like them. How do I love them?
Their treatment hurt. Invisible bullets left bruises and a desire for both refuge and escape from the trenches.
A friend recently had the courage to confide that I had wounded her. Playing the role of inflictor was even worse than being in the crosshairs.
We may not fight in actual battles, but this is fact: We all know what it is to have an enemy and what it is to be one.
Jesus said to love our enemies. That command comes as a relief when we're the ones who messed up. It doesn't seem unreasonable to expect that we should be loved, right? It's when we need to love those who offend that we want it to be optional. It would have been easier if He had told us to like them. Maybe.
How do we love our enemies? How do we love those that view us as theirs?
When I was a kid our family went to visit some friends. The father in that home gave instructions that there was to be no jumping on the beds and that, if we did, we would get spankings. He left us to play and, after awhile, went to see what the little angels were doing. He didn't have to open the door to find out. Childish voices were gleefully singing, "Jumping on the the bed! Jumping on the bed! What do you get when you're jumping on the bed? You get a SPANKING when you're jumping on the bed!" Not only were we disobeying, we were happily singing about it (and the pending consequence). We were guilty and didn't care.
That story is a great reminder of who I am without Jesus. The Bible says that we are all enemies of God but that, while we were still merry little sinners without remorse, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8,10). We can't love without a correct understanding of who we were and why His love and sacrifice for us is so radical. It changes the way we love others - even enemies.
Every circumstance is different and it's essential to filter them though Scripture. There are situations when we need to let grace cover "it" and move forward. Sometimes we need to lovingly confront and seek resolution or reconciliation with the offender. There is also a time and place for removing ourselves. Loving our enemies doesn't mean we need to be intimate with them. Repentance is key in being in relationship with God and that also applies to human relationships. When it's not there and necessary changes aren't being made for people to live in harmony, there is brokenness. Love, forgiveness, and boundaries can co-exist. It's important to seek godly wisdom and counsel when navigating tough situations with others.
Regardless of what course of action we must take or what role we are playing in the situation, the answer of how respond in love is simple: "Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them," (Matt. 7:12).
Think of the things that people universally desire to receive: love, understanding, kindness, patience, respect, gentleness, forgiveness, and goodness are a few biggies. We all carry a sense of entitlement for them which is probably why Jesus presented it in a way that would easily resonate. As much as we think we deserve the "right stuff," we tend to question giving it to others. It's a heart issue that we need God to correct, but I point it out to say that the things we want are exactly what we're to give away to enemies and those who would call us theirs.
Forgive without reservation or condition.
Be kind in your thoughts.
Be respectful in what you say and don't say.
Recognize the value of others and the Image they bear.
Pray for those who hurt you.
Treat others in a way that doesn't just honor them, but God.
How do we love our enemies? "Not in word or talk but in deed and in truth," (1 John 3:18).