Alright class, show of hands: Who wants to Love Your Enemies?
“Ooooh! Me! Meee! Pulllleeeease pick Meeeeeeeee!”
Ok you there, in the back, with the Coexist T-shirt on, come on up here.
Oh, what’s that you say? You thought the question was “who wants to shove their enemies?”
Honest mistake. Makes total sense in light of your enthusiasm, actually.
But yeah, you can go back and sit down.
Now where were we? Yes, loving our enemies. Who wants to go first?
Dont make me say “Bueller”, cause I will go there. I mean, why is this so hard? I mean, we WANT to do this, don’t we? Of course we do.
Absolutely. Sort of. Not really. Yeah, maybe not at all.
Well, at least we love the IDEA of it. I mean, those feel good stories, come on now… like the one where Patton Oswald turns a Twitter hater’s frown upside down, and starts a GoFundMe campaign for him? (that really happened, btw, I am not making this up so don’t be Snopesing me. Here you go, doubter:
They kinda hit us. Right. Here:
Yes. Yes, they do.
Love triumphs over evil. Good prevails. Hearts grow three sizes.
The whole village gathers, joins hands and sings:
It’s what we all long for. Healing. Restoration. The kind that only comes when we love in the face of opposition. It’s the right thing to do.
Everybody knows it. So why then do we, (and by we, I mean mostly me, but yeah, probably you, too) kind of suck at it?
I know I do.
Oh, I’m Good at being nice to the nice. Real good.
Pleasantries are my specialty.
I can smile and wish you a good day with the best of them
You should see me at Trader Joe’s.
(Hey wait, you have seen me at Trader Joe’s, or at least the parking lot… and if not, here you go: https://isleofmisfits.com/2018/11/27/the-podcast-that-never-was-a-story-of-defiant-joy-from-the-parking-lot-of-trader-joes/)
Yep, if it’s reciprocated niceness you’re looking for, I’m your girl.
You be nice to me, and gosh darn it, I’ll see that niceness and raise you tenfold. That’s just the way I am, gosh and golly gee. Why, I’ll go so far as to say that I have occasionally been known to INITIATE the niceness. Unprovoked, even! I know, right? Isn’t that nice of me? And as long as they respond in kind with the appropriate level of niceness, we are golden. Everyone’s happy. All is well.
Bottom line… not that I like to brag or anything, but… I’ve kind of perfected the art of maintaining the kind of love fest that practically takes no effort whatsoever, with people who, with or without me, already have warmth and kindness stored up in their hearts. It’s a gift, really.
Yep, when it comes to this business of being nice to the nice, I’m kind of like an Innocuous Rock Star.
But let me let you in on a little secret.
(Lean in, cause I’m going to whisper this, as I don’t want anyone outside of our immediate circle here to know…)
I’m not so good with the meanies.
Until I can be/do that from a place of abundance that wants to give, rather than from a place of desperate emptiness that needs to be affirmed, I’m not really loving my enemies… I’m just loving myself.
The ones who don’t return your smile. Ingrates.
The ones who bump you with their shopping cart and don’t say “excuse me”. Boors.
Who DON’T want to be your neighbor. Misanthropes.
The ones who you let take the “Pittsburgh” left in front of you
and don’t even wave or nod in appreciation. Oblivious. Harumph.
(and if you don’t know what the PL is… hereyago: https://isleofmisfits.com/2018/09/05/the-pittsburgh-left/ )
Or how about unhelpful customer service people? Ugh.
Not to mention the BIG LEAGUE meanies, you know who I’m talking ’bout: Twitter Trolls. The Worst.
Yeah, I’m not always so good in those situations.
But before I get too hard on myself though, let me again reiterate that as long as no one’s trampling on my rights, and showing me the proper level of respect, appreciation and acceptable behavior… I am pretty darned great at loving my enemies.
Except that’s pretty much not what loving your enemies is all about.
I know that. And it bothers me. Because I know it’s the “right” thing to do. But more than that, and what really bothers me, is that I know WHY it’s the right thing; it’s more than just about doing, it’s about being. You know, as in actually BEING loving? Until I can be/do that from a place of abundance that wants to give, rather than from a place of desperate emptiness that needs to be affirmed, I’m not really loving my enemies… I’m just loving myself.
And that just won’t do. Not for me. And not for you.
So what do I/we do?
Well… maybe a good starting point is to acknowledge the brutal truth.
People are hard to love. I know this, because I am hard to love. And so are you. Oh, not all the time. Like I said, we’re real good at lovin on each other when it’s boomaranged right backatus… but somewhere in the back of my mind I’m hearing these familiar, annoying words:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full …”Luke 6:32-34
The truth is, it’s hard to love people who don’t love you back. That’s why they’re our enemies. The whole not-loving thing. They can’t show it. There’s all kinds of reasons for it, and some of them are heartbreaking. But the bottom line is, they don’t know how to return, let alone offer grace, or mercy or love. But they NEED it. Oh, how they need it. Cause I need it. And you need it.
So maybe part of the answer is to go back to thinking “selfishly”… in that, by loving those boors, those oblivious misanthropes, those BIG LEAGUE MEANIES, we’re really doing unto others what we hope against all hope someone will do for us? It doesn’t guarantee they will love us back (in fact, we can pretty much count on it- they won’t) – but, not to get all deep and philosophical on you, what goes around does come around. Or, to get all Biblical on you, a man reaps what he sows (Gal 6:7). Eventually, the way we live does come back on us… in heaping, haunting measures.
And if this all still seems a bit impossible (because it kinda is)… here’s some good news. We don’t have to do it in our own strength. In fact, I’d highly recommend against it. This is the whole reason we need God. Specifically, his Son Jesus, who knows a thing or two about loving on people who don’t quite know how to love back. It’s His specialty.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 John 4:10
Do you realize what this means??? We can love our enemies, because WE, the enemies of God, were (and ARE) loved by Him. And that kind of love, when we can receive it, is powerful. Powerful enough to melt the hardest hearts. Even the meanies’. And remember, we can only give to them what we’ve received for ourselves
Oh, you still won’t WANT to do it. It’s still going to be hard. But it’s hard like exercise is hard. No one wants to do that, either. Think of the pay-off though. Those rock hard abs. That soft, squishy heart.
And even though I know I have a ways to go when it comes to all this, I’m actually encouraged. Not that I am by any means encouraging the haters to bring it on (I’m not THAT PollyAnna), but I do love the paradigm shift, from acting out of desperation for affirmation, to being filled up with the capacity to love, period. Yeah, that’s what I want.
How about you?