Let’s first dispel the idea that our enemies are people far away in another country. Sure, we should love those people, but short of sending positive emotion-waves across the ocean like some kind of weak Morse code, we can’t really love them actively. Jesus must have meant someone closer to home.
In the panorama of personality types God has created, some types are going to clash. If you are facing one of these cataclysmic clashes in your own sphere, it can feel like World War III. When the word “enemy” provokes a mental image of someone, you know it’s time to address it in your heart.
In conflict, some people are fight, and some people are flight. I have been flight for as long as I can remember. I’ve read that gorillas only bite when they feel their strength is spent; the bite is the last bastion of self-defense. When I start biting back, I know it’s time to pray.
Sometimes we can walk away, and sometimes we can’t. We’re tempted to vent to others, but it only leaves us feeling bitter and sinful. That’s when you “go to the mattresses” with your own demons. You work on your fight against your flesh. You can’t change the contentious person; he is who he is until he gets tired of himself and wants to change, too. But you can change you.
Eleanor Roosevelt famously said that no one can make you feel inferior. Respectfully, I disagree. People can and will make you feel inferior, especially if it makes them feel better about themselves. Once. Maybe twice. Maybe Four times. Peck-Peck-Peck-Peck. They can, and they will peck until you say, “ENOUGH!” And at that point, you can either lay down and die, while they gloat over your dead body and say, “See! See! I was right!” Or you can roll away until you get to a safe distance and Rocky up.
Our fight is not against flesh and blood, and it’s not against the person we dislike; we have a real enemy who longs to see us live defeated. The opinions of others do not supersede what God says about us. So what do we do?
First, we hunker down in our proverbial nest with our Bibles and our weak little bird-prayers, and we choose to fiercely accept the love of Christ. This is where it starts. We love, because He first loved us. Then, once we’ve soaked up all we can hold, we choose to love ourselves, because, after all, Christ died for us, too, not just for our enemies. Third, we go to our inner circle, and we soak up their love too, like how my five-year-old drinks Coke with a straw, greedily. Even Jesus did this; He had 12 disciples, but Peter, James, and John were his special companions. We need our favorites as much as He did. Their love gives us great courage and joy.
Now, we are ready. Now we are armored up. Now, we go into the ring, not to fight, but to love our enemies loudly, like Mel Gibson when he wore blue face paint and a skirt. Maybe there’s a peck or two or three waiting for us in the ring, and we have to walk away again.
Or maybe, just maybe, there are no pecks. Maybe we were shadow-boxing a straw man all along. What was once an epic battle turns out to be nothing more than us wrestling with God, with ourselves, and He had to wound us to get our attention. And even though we walk with a limp for the rest of our days, we’re glad.