Monday, August 25

Enemies

One of Jesus of Nazareth's most famous statements was recorded by the Apostle Matthew in the 5th chapter of his gospel. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."

The 'Love Your Enemy" ethic is one of the most revolutionary and striking things about Jesus' teachings while he was walking around in 1st century Palestine. Now, 2000 or so years later, it is one of the most difficult to apply. For many people, it is difficult to apply because it doesn't feel like we really have enemies. Sure, my neighbor might be really loud late at night, and that guy at the work really annoys the hell out of me when he takes credit for my work, but those aren't enemies. It doesn't cost me a lot to pray for them (of course that doesn't mean I always do it).

For the first time in my life, I actually have enemies. The 200-300 Israeli Jewish Settlers who are trying to take over the land that is bordering Paidia's Adventure Gardens consider me their enemy, and I suppose that I consider them my enemies as well, as they are trying to destroy the work to which I have devoted the last year of my life. They harass me and others in our group over e-mail and phone, they try to get us deported, and a couple weeks ago, they physically assaulted us. When they speak with us, they have hate in their eyes and their voices, and they say things that are supposed to hurt as much as possible.

In the aftermath of our most recent interaction with the settlers, me and a couple others sat together and talked about the idea of praying for our enemies. We decided we wanted to try and get together and pray for the individual settlers with whom we have interacted. We haven't done it yet.

Busyness is one possible excuse, we all have jobs, families, and other responsibilities, but I have think that they idea is not as exciting in practice as it is in theory. To actually look at a picture of someone who hates me, and ask God to bless that person, to fill them with His love, and to do it without an agenda, is a tall, tall order. To respond to taunts of "Jew-Hater," "Euro-Trash," and "Nazi" with blessings seems downright unreasonable. In fact, I have found that I usually end up day-dreaming about ways to "get" the settlers when I sit down to pray for them, and before I know it, I'm angrier than when I started.

I'm not entirely sure what my conclusions is on this topic. I have to do what I have been commanded to do regardless of the discomfort involved, and, to be honest, it hasn't gotten any easier as I have tried to start praying for them on my own. Maybe the solution is our first idea, praying together, supporting one another in this audacious and unreasonable command that Jesus has given us may be the first step to actually doing it.

2 comments:

Lynn Trew said...

Where two or three are gathered... watch how He will work... our God is more concerned about your heart than peace in the situation so make time to pray together. He is the God of the impossible and I understand that this feels impossible... which is why you need each other. Praying with you!
Lynn

Ramón said...

And as a preface to quoting "where two or three are gathered", I hope it's not too trite to point out that Jesus is teaching whatever is bound on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The parable immediately following indicates this has exactly to do with what you're wrestling with -- forgiveness and love of the enemy.

Brother, I want you to know a Puerto Rican in Portland is loving you on his knees.

May his kingdom come, his will be done...