Love your enemies?

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” -Luke 6:27-28

Have you ever disagreed with someone? Okay, so I might as well ask if you’ve ever spent more than five minutes around any other person. Think about the last time you disagreed completely with someone on an issue that seemed really important. Think about a disagreement where you felt passionately certain that your perspective was the correct one.

Maybe it was about whether this winter is evidence for or against climate change, maybe it was about how to budget in your home, maybe it was about which movie should have won Best Picture. Whatever it was, think about how that conversation went, whether it was in person, on the phone, or over the internet. Did you passionately but deliberately present the overwhelming evidence for your perspective, thus impressing your opponent into a swift and complete change of mind? No?

Or was it more like this: you started off politely enough, but as tempers flared and buttons were pushed, you both got more and more defensive and less and less willing to listen? Been there, done that. Maybe you skipped the polite exchange and went straight to the stereotypes and insults. Been there, done that, too.

Whoever it is opposing you, whether it’s a family member, friend, neighbor, or stranger, there can come a point when they start to feel like an adversary. When that happens, what do you do? Some days, you might just decide it’s not worth it and drop it. Of course, if this is a person you plan to interact with ever again, that doesn’t work so well. You could, I suppose, agree to NEVER EVER talk about that contentious issue, but that hides the disagreement instead of dealing with it.

When our friend starts to feel like a foe because of an argument, I suggest that we follow the words of Jesus: love. Love looks like remembering that the people with whom we disagree hold their beliefs for many reasons. Love looks like asking ourselves to consider the issue from another perspective. Love looks like paying attention to the people in the conversation even more than to your next argument. Love looks like caring about what the other person thinks, even if you’re already sure you disagree.

Love, of course, is hard work. It is much easier to jump to conclusions, ignore other perspectives, and treat our conversation partners like enemies. As with much of life, the harder choice is by far the better one.

Jesus, teach me to love the ones who seem to be my enemy, to do good to them when they do evil to me, to bless them when they curse me, and above all, teach me to follow you even through the hard things. Amen.

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