Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I opened up this topic of hatred, and how it is such an ugly thing to see in our world and in our personal relationships. If you hate someone, it means you despise, and feel lots of animosity towards, another human being. It is so destructive that friendships and marriages have been destroyed forever.
There’s an old story of two shopkeepers who hated each other and were constant rivals. One night an angel came to the first shopkeeper and said: “The Lord has sent me to you with the promise that you may have one wish, no matter how extravagant. There is a catch, however: Your rival will receive double. What is your wish?” Thinking for a moment, he said, “My wish is that you would strike me blind in one eye”. Well, hatred can be so addictive that it blinds us to seeing options, and can end up destroying ourselves as well.
How powerful are the words of Jesus: “You’ve heard it said ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. Jesus brought in a new rule and it was about an all-embracing love which means no enemies are allowed. We are to love everyone. Unfortunately, we let feelings of revenge, hatred and anger burn into our lives.
Forgiving our enemies
Early in the 1900s, the Armenian Christian Church was terribly persecuted by the Turks. A Turkish officer raided and looted an Armenian home and killed the parents and sexually abused one of the daughters. She escaped from him and eventually became a nurse. One night she found herself in a hospital ward of Turkish officers who were injured, and there in one bed she recognised him, the man who had done terrible things to her years before.
He was gravely ill, unconscious, and without nursing care would die. She nursed and cared for him, and the doctor praised her by saying, “Had it not been for your devotion and care, he would have died”. The officer suddenly realised who the nurse was, and asked her, “Haven’t we met before?” “Yes”, she said, “we have met before”. “Why didn’t you just let me die for what I did to you?”. She replied, “I couldn’t do that because I am a follower of Him who said ‘love your enemies’”.
How could she forgive like that? I’m sure this nurse had struggled with feelings of hate and bitterness, but realised the ways of Jesus were far better. Loving and forgiving our enemies doesn’t mean forgetting the past—it’s an invitation to follow a better way as Jesus wants from his followers.
It was theologian Helmut Thielicke who once said, “To love one’s enemy does not mean to love the mire in which the pearl lies, but to love the pearl that lies in the mire”. Loving our enemies does not mean some kind of superhuman suppression of our own feelings, but a divine gift of grace that gives us new spiritual eyes, through which we can see something of the love of God, even with someone we may feel hatred for.
How much better to turn to our Heavenly Father and ask for his guidance. Romans 12:2 says, “…let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed” (NEB). Instead of allowing feelings of hatred build up inside for months or years, consider doing what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:8: “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst: the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse”. (The Message)
Loving our enemies
In Matthew 5 there’s a section called “Love your enemies” and this is what Jesus said:
Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth’. Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all’. If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy’. I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. (Matthew 38-48 – The Message).
These are not just nice words—Jesus knew what they meant. He was betrayed, tortured and killed at the hands of enemies. Through it all Jesus practised what he preached.
Do you need to acknowledge feelings of hatred and anger? Pray for that person. C. S. Lewis wrote this one day in his journal: “Last week while at prayer, I suddenly discovered that I had forgiven someone I had been trying to forgive for over 30 years. Trying and praying that I might”. You can’t pray for someone every day for 30 years without some of God’s love being released in your heart. The world is choking and dying from hatred and revenge. May we let go of our feelings of hatred and instead be people of love.
PRAYER: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.