|The Rift Valley, in southern Kenya|
I have intentionally been praying for my enemies, especially those in my past for whom, it seemed to me, I was their worst nightmare. I must discern my responsibility in their hatred of me. In some cases, I am sure, I caused it. "I" was the problem. Yet if they were true Jesus-followers they would love me, and I would love them. It sounds so unreal to me! I rarely meet such love, both in others and in my own heart.
Last week I was praying for some "enemy" when God told me, "John, I love them as much as I love you." I felt stunned by this. I know, theologically, that this is true. I know this in my head. I want to know it also in my heart.
Thomas Merton has written: "How true it is that the great obligation of the Christian, especially now, is to prove himself a disciple of Christ by hating no one, that is to say, by condemning no one, rejecting no one. And how true that the impatience that fumes at others and damns them (especially whole classes, races, nations) is a sign of the weakness that is still unliberated, still not tracked by the Blood of Christ, and is still a stranger to the Cross." (Merton, Thomas. A Year with Thomas Merton, Kindle Locations 3870-3873.)
See that little phrase "the weakness that is still unliberated?" It takes a free person to love as Jesus loved. The freer one is the wider, deeper, higher, and longer is one's love.
So, following Merton I am to:
- Hate no one.
- Condemn no one.
- Reject no one.
Hate sin. Love people. Like Jesus did, and most completely expressed this when he died for us while we were still his enemies. Note: we were his enemies, not he our's.
Recently, while teaching at Payne Theological Seminary, my students and I spent four days meditating on Psalm 23. One of the lines says: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows." One of my students received a God-insight I had never thought of before. God told him that not only is the "prepared table" visible to one's enemies, but so is being anointed with oil and the overflowing cup. I took this thought and related it to my cry for a greater love, in me.
I invite you to pray this with me: "God, let your love so shape and fill my heart that it overflows even to my enemies."
Pray for release. Pray for the freedom to love others as Christ loves them. And pray to receive this love for your own self.