As I said, this has been a rough year, in part because of lots of interpersonal conflict. So I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately, specifically about loving my enemies. There have been days when it’s pretty hard to even ask God to give me love for them. In fact, the amount of hurt and anger I’ve felt this year have left me so tempted to jump headlong into bitterness and hatred. And there are days when I can feel my heart start to grow hard and cold. It’s a terrifying feeling. If you’ve read my book, Tales from a Spacious Place, you know that I firmly believe bitterness only hurts the person who’s bitter–not the one they’re bitter towards. I’ve been bitter before. I’ve seen what it does to my heart, how it cuts me off from experiencing God’s best, how it leaves me alone. I know that being bitter only hands someone the power to wreck my life. So I know that I don’t want to be bitter. But love my enemies? It feels like I’m giving them something, despite the fact that my “enemies” are people who have taken and taken and taken from me already. It’s paradoxical that God asks me to give even more to them. It seems extreme.
In the past when I’ve thought about loving my enemies, I’ve always felt resentful about what they get out of it–even if it’s just love from afar (e.g., praying for people I don’t have contact with anymore). But recently, my view has changed. I know that loving others benefits the others, but I’d never looked at the other side of the equation: I started thinking about what loving my enemies does for me. And I realized that it acts like a shield that protects me from the corrosive power of hatred and bitterness, which destroy you physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. If I don’t love my enemies, I’m liable to end up eaten alive by those things. It’s sort of that whole adage about how you can’t ever stand still in life, only move forwards or backwards. Loving my enemies keeps me free to move forward. Hate and bitterness toward them drags me backward. Love is this shield that creates space for me to live my life. I may not like loving my enemies, but it’s definitely in my best interest to do so. And when I think about it that way, it’s much easier to want to do things God’s way.