Jesus said it: “Love your enemies” (Mt 5:44; Lk. 6:27).
So we’re supposed to do it!
Why did it take me so long to figure out this obvious thing: where scripture gives such a command, it often follows with the how-to.
And that’s what Jesus does with this one.
do good to those who hate us,
and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute us…
— as if that makes it easier!
I have come to think that any good course of action best begins with prayer, and prayer is part of both Matthew’s and Luke’s how-to’s…
“Have you prayed for them?” I asked.
Her voice wavered, hesitated. “I can’t!” she said, in a whisper of desperation.
What I suggested, responding to her desperation, was good, but still not good enough. It was just a start.
I urged her just to tell God what she told me, take it to Him, ask for His help.
But just asking for His help might not be enough, in some cases at least, to enable us to forgive.
It wasn’t for Corrie ten Boom…
She stood there, cornered, that former Nazi extending his hand, speaking glowing words about the wonders of forgiveness — the forgiveness she’d just been preaching — and expecting her to reach out her hand to shake his.
She couldn’t. Simply couldn’t. Not that hand, belonging to that man…
the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravens-bruck… first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there — the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, [sister] Betsie’s pain-blanched face…*
But neither could she flee. So there she stood, as “angry vengeful thoughts boiled through” her.
And there he stood, hand extended. And she knew Jesus says, “Forgive,” and she
but she still couldn’t forgive.
“Lord Jesus,” she prayed. “Forgive me, and help me to forgive him.”
Yet the hand at the end of her arm remained paralyzed, like ice, frozen to her side. And the man’s hand was reaching, waiting.
In desperation she said it silent, “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.”
And with that silent prayer her hand rose up and met that man’s, and…
as I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.*
We cannot love our enemies as we ought. We cannot forgive as we ought. And when we come to a crisis like Corrie’s ourselves, we are presented with an opportunity to behold a miracle, working right within and through us, to experience the incredible power of God in a helpless little human…
Our cases might differ. This man had evidently acknowledged his sins and accepted Christ’s forgiveness, for he mentioned this to Corrie. Also, he approached her, and his extended hand was a sort of silent request for her forgiveness as well.
She did not go to him, nor put herself in harm’s way, in this life-altering interchange. We may have so many mitigating circumstances that wisdom warns us to consider and deal with before we go rushing off precipitously to action without equipping.
How to get equipped?
Well, I’m still working this out, how best to love my enemies.
So more on that in future posts.
Meanwhile… This post is best considered in context with at least the two preceding it.
And if you have old wounds to doctor and forgiveness not yet accomplished, you might just take the next several days, week, month, however long it takes, and wrestle it out with God. Use the Psalms. Find the ones that fit, that express your tangled feelings, good and bad. Speak them out to God. And remember as you pray how He loves you, yes He does.
And come on back later, so we can limp along together.
In Christ’s love.
* From The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom (next to the last page)