A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a special event for work – something I have wanted to go to for several years but couldn’t ever make it to. But, this year the stars aligned. Man, was I excited! All the way up until five minutes before curtain. As I was engaged in catching up with an old work friend, my colleague, who had been mysteriously absent from the seat next to me, called to me to join her in the aisle. “This can’t be good”, I thought. It wasn’t.
A Board Member who hadn’t confirmed tickets for the event had arrived. They, obviously thinking they were supposed to be in attendance, convinced Will Call to write them a temporary ticket to get in the door and find their seats. But there were no seats to be found. Except for mine. And so mine it was.
As I stood at the back for the entire two hour event, I seethed. “What numbskull shows up to an event without tickets!?!” “What idiot lets them in on their word that they are supposed to be there!?!” “How entitled do you have to be to not ask why you haven’t received the tickets you thought you were getting and then just show up and convince someone to let you in!?!” “How clueless are you to not realize two obviously lesser people have given up their seats to accommodate your ridiculousness!?!” Ah… the list could go on to infinity. I had two hours to think about it.
I also had two hours to fight the conviction that I am called to love these people. And fight it I did. “They are stupid! I’m the innocent victim! I don’t wanna forgive them! Vindication is what I deserve!” And I wrestled with reality. “They are on the Board of Directors. I simply work for the company. I know my role. Even if I put company politics aside, I know what respect is supposed to look like. I can’t control their behavior, but I can be responsible for my own. I have to take the hit – cheerfully. Or at least with a smile on my face.” And so the war continued. “I don’t wanna.”
In that moment, those people were my enemies. They had interrupted my delight, thwarted my blissful evening, rained on my parade. I wanted to hate them. But the Spirit who lives in me had another plan. He gently whispered, “Love them, as I have loved you.” “The second greatest commandment is this, that you shall love your neighbors as yourself.” “Lay down your life.” “Love your enemies.” And I said, “but I don’t wanna.”
How many times in a week does this happen? We are offended, hurt, wounded. And if we listen to the Truth, we know we are to forgive those who hurt us. But the real Enemy is just as convincing when he whispers in our other ear, “but you deserve better.” His sole purpose in life is to sew discord, discontent and division between us and our Creator. And when we listen to him, that is exactly what happens.
We are surrounded by enemies: the manipulative mother, the abusive father, the slandering co-worker, the guy who cuts us off on the freeway, the terrorist, the corrupt leader who is out for his own gain, the child who screams how much she hates us, the thief, the murderer, the selfish stranger who is consumed with their own needs. We are surrounded. And we are called to love them. To forgive them. Because He first loved us.
When we know Love, the author of Love, the One who created it, only then can we truly love our enemies. Even when the pain remains, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can attempt that gut-wrenching, unimaginable, self-sacrificing kind of act. But He promises us that we can do all things because He will give us the strength we need.
So, when I relented and accepted that loving my enemy meant smiling and offering them my ticket for dinner, all the while nursing the wounds of disappointment and feelings of not mattering, I was able to experience a glimpse of His love for me. He gives me the power to do this, simply because He knows that holding on to my hate will be my end. And He loves me too much to allow that to happen.
When it’s all said and done, it’s very little skin off my nose to offer grace. It’s more about my pride than my nose. So, I try to remember that. When I offer love instead of hate everyone wins. And that everyday enemy? Maybe what I offer them will make the difference they are looking for.
Who is your enemy? How do you love them well? Is it easier for you than it is for me?