Loving Your Enemy Means You Have To Hang Out With Them

Of all the commandments of Jesus, the one that I see as most revolutionary is the one to love your enemies. Not only is the idea of loving enemies a hard one, it’s completely foreign to how any of us are raised, how we interact with each other and especially how we want to live. It seems like Jesus looked right into the hearts of humanity, found what was eating away at us the most and then brought it into the light. I can see the conversation now. Jesus says love your enemies and all his disciples start trying to figure out what that means. “You don’t actually mean have them to our houses to dinner right? You mean just don’t think ill towards them, and don’t say mean things about them right?” Jesus responds, “Ya that’s what I mean by love, ignore them and think pretty thoughts (note the sarcasm). Of course that’s what I mean. Think about how you treat your mother, now go out, find your enemies and treat them like that (only if you like your mother).”

Most of us don’t like people that give us a dirty look let alone loving those that seem to be working strongly against us. Yet the command stays the same. Love your enemy. I get it, I really do. This isn’t easy. No one wants to do this. Most of us by now have been able to escape this way of living by justifying what love is and by justifying what an enemy is. We hear it everywhere. I just don’t like that person. That person is annoying. Well, I don’t have to be friends with everyone. That person wants me to fail. We have nothing in common. I have to protect my children from their children. We’re just going in different directions. They are rude. They are always against everything. They are crazy!

These are generally excuses we make when explaining why we don’t like someone or don’t want to hang out with them. Unfortunately, all the things that are mentioned are pre-requisites to love the person according to Jesus. I know for sure that love doesn’t mean shallow “hello, how are you conversation” in the mall. Then we pat ourselves on the back for going out of our way to be nice. I know for sure that love means that yes, you do have to be friends, and you do have to spend time with them. The whole idea of protecting our social life by not being around those that are draining and annoying is probably the hardest thing to fight against. For some reason we feel entitled to pick our friends, pick every circumstance we are in and pick the style of people we spend all our time with. Our picks of course are generally centered around people we like, people that get us and people that think the same way as us: the exact definition of someone who is not our enemy.

I don’t really have any suggestions to fix this. It is broken though. Maybe disciplining ourselves to spend time with our “enemy” once a week. You know, take them out for a coffee, invite them over for dinner. Oops, I didn’t mean to mention that. It sort of made me feel uncomfortable thinking about all those situations where I am inviting the people over I can’t stand the most and we and my wife sitting there trying to be loving. Seems awfully forced and awkward. I can see the excuses coming up already. I really believe this stuff though, I just don’t want to. To really change the world and spread this gospel the way Jesus did, that means spending time with people that we don’t want to spend time with. The goal obviously is that we start to see ourselves in the other and we connect and begin to love others because they are human, and we are human. Jesus doesn’t want us to love our enemy to torture us, he wants us to love our enemy because they are us.

This obviously isn’t a rule or a command that we must do. That isn’t the point. Loving your enemy is a prerequisite to experiencing the gospel. It gives you an opportunity to die to yourself. See yourself in your enemy. See what God was up to. Love someone who isn’t like you. If we want to be Christians, if we really want to follow Christ then we need to make decisions to intentionally do these things as a community of people living out kingdom values. If the world is going to change, it won’t be because a bunch of Christians annoyed all the annoying and crazy people. We can’t just think good thoughts about them. We need to be proactive and reach out and love our enemy. If we are going to work alongside of God and his redemption of all things, going out of our way to love people that we are inclined to hate is the first step.

10 Comments

  • Wait…is that why you always have us for dinner?

  • Yes, you are my spend time with people I hate time.

  • “This obviously isn’t a rule or a command that we must do.”

    It is exactly that, a commandment.

    ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

  • Guess I’m getting in over my head a bit with a statement like that, but I’m alluding to a bit that you can’t make a “rule” to love somebody, life, God, relationships don’t work that way.

    But yes, you are right, this isn’t “optional” in terms of there is another way to get the same results. But it is optional for everyone, because they can choose to love or not love.

    But you’re right, it is a commandment :)

  • I’m not sure I agree with this. I think the truth is, if there is someone that rubs us the wrong way, and we don’t like them, there is something about how they are made in the image of God that we are blind to. I always say this to people who are particularly harsh in the their stands against homosexuality. They are not ‘homosexual’, even to the degree that they think their own sexuality defines them. If they are openly gay, right there you know that there is someone who has the courage and conviction of their own desire to do what they think is right despite what everyone thinks of them. That is character. It may be a bit wrongly placed, they may be letting some perversion lead them on, but it is not that much different than ignoring the poor or being a glutton or being taken with heterosexual sin.

    The point is, to really LOVE your enemy, you can’t just hang out with them even though you dislike them. That is whitewashed tomb stuff. Everyone has plenty about them to dislike, including me. You have to figure out what is great about them, extract the precious from the worthless. In the midst of the barren and seemingly worthless field, you have to find the treasure, and find your joy over it. For some the treasure is better hidden, but it is always there.

    Great post! Thanks.

  • Hey Jim, it sounds like I agree with you.

    The point of this is that love takes work, and to truly love someone you have to spend time with them. You’ll never learn to love someone if you just ignore them and keep them at a distance. Bring people close, bring your enemies closer, even though you won’t like it.

  • Although I don’t know that we “have to” hang out with out enemies I agree, at least in principle, to what you’re saying. A number of years ago I noticed that I had become a fairly narrow person, caustic towards people who were different than me. I began to hang out with people who I would normally consider outside of my natural “constituency” of friends, yourself included. While I still have very specific opinions about basically everything the “us and them” feelings that are so often common are gone. It’s been beautiful, in one sense.

    “Loving your enemy is a prerequisite to experiencing the gospel.”

    What does this mean?

  • Well, if the gospel is good news of a way of life, something that happens to you by the death and resurrection of Christ and something that you enter into as a participant of a new kingdom, then loving your enemy is one of those kingdom values…you have to do it if you actually want the news to be good news.

  • Ah.

  • Does joining a comment thread that includes Tom Skerritt (and, gasp, Keith Brooks might even be lurking!) count as hanging-out with my enemies??

    (I jest, motherfuckers, I jest!)

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