2,000 years ago, a rabbi walked the dusty streets of Israel teaching a message of hope and healing. One of his most shocking teachings took place on a mountainside. In a provocative sermon on the mount, He introduced an idea that was unheard of in culture at the time. He actually told his followers,
“Love your enemies.” Not only love them but “do what is good to those that hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”(Luke 6:27-28).
After all, loving your neighbor is easy – love really lives in the challenge. This is still scandalous today.
Fast forward to 1861 – America engaging in a war with itself that would divide it and set it on a course that we still haven’t fully recovered – even after 150 years. The Civil War was anything but civil, and the cost was life. There are stains on this “Christian nation” that don’t seem to go away even with time. Observing the cultural landscape, it seems that there is a divide once again in our nation reminiscent of times gone by. Jesus’ teaching on enemy love may be more relevant now than ever in my lifetime since “we are saved by a man who died loving his enemies.”
In wrestling with this topic, I have looked at my own life and asked, who are my enemies? I don’t think it’s always on a large or group-wide scale that we find enemies. In my experience, I think the starting point, the root, of putting someone in the enemy category is my posture of disconnectedness toward another person, on a basic individual level.
This played out this past weekend when my family traveled down to the hill country of Texas to a wedding. Everything was perfect: the weather, the scenery, the food. It was a wedding out of a fairy tale; however, the weekend ended on a rather quiet drive back to Dallas. My wife and I had an argument during the wedding, and we barely said a word the whole way back. About halfway through our drive, I sensed that Jesus was bringing all of this so clearly into my mind. I had postured myself and made the decision to disconnect from my wife. I had made her the enemy in the moment, and I felt completely justified in punishing her with my silence.
I began to realize that loving my enemy is not just for the person who doesn’t look like me or the group that I don’t understand, but Jesus was saying that my enemy might be in the seat next to me, the person I’m choosing not to connect with or whose story I refuse to hear. And though my wife and I quickly made amends, I realized that oftentimes I hold myself to a lower standard when it comes to the world around me, feeling justified to remain in the same thought pattern toward them without hearing their story or walking in their shoes.
I ask you to consider who you’ve made an enemy in your life – who you’ve disagreed with or misunderstood, who you’ve guarded yourself against, who you’ve blocked connection with because of your differences, who you’ve outright disliked or wrongly labeled. Find commonality with this person/group and ask God to give you His perspective and thoughts toward these self-made enemies.
Collectively, in community, we need to take a pilgrimage back to the mountainside, sit with this King Jesus and hear his heart on these matters – lay down our lives, our traditions and ideologies, and rediscover the ancient paths that we said we would follow. And actually put into practice the way of Jesus concerning our enemies – maybe even make neighbors out of them.
 Tim Keller
Lives in Garland, TX
Husband to Susanna, Dad to Alana, Abrielle, Aden, Asher & a French Bulldog named Duncan
Image via SHTTEFAN