Radical Love

     Love.  A powerful, impactful word.  Seeking love, sharing love drives much of our behavior in life.  Too many of us settle for some form of shallow love.  However, Jesus calls us to offer the world a bold and radical love.  He even tells us to love our enemies.  What does this even mean, to love my enemies? To love those who have harmed me? Let’s all acknowledge most of us would admit that we do not always love well, especially those who are difficult or who we would consider enemies.  Here are some ways to love people that we do not even naturally like.
     First, listen to their story.  Listening to someone’s story almost always softens your experience of the person you clash with.   The person you find obnoxious often has a painful story that will give you insight into their current behaviors if you take the time to hear it.   
     Second, pray for those who have harmed you (Matthew 5:44).  This is a powerful way to love an enemy.  Praying for someone regularly tends to soften our hearts towards an offender, and personally, I have found that I begin to root for that person internally. 
      Third, speak life to them and about them.  Scripture teaches us that words are life or death (Proverbs 18:21).  Quit telling your “hurt story” about that ex-husband to everyone.  When you interact with him, speak as positively as possible.  When his name comes up in your presence either remain silent, or find something positive to say about him.  Stop campaigning against the person who betrayed or wounded you.
     Fourth, be direct.  If there is a person that you consider an enemy, think seriously about having a face to face conversation with them.   If it is a particularly painful situation, it could be good to have a third party such as a pastor or counselor there to help the conversation make progress.  Sometimes, one of the most loving things you can do for a person is confront them.   People tend to view Jesus as mostly this kind, gentle person.  However, this is not the only way he interacted with people in the gospels.  Jesus was very blunt, direct and confrontational with some individuals when needed.    
     Fifth, Forgive.  If you consider someone an enemy, it is most likely because they wounded you deeply.  There is no healing like forgiveness.  You are not excusing their behavior by acknowledging the harm they did to you and actively choosing to forgive them.  You let it go.  You intentionally give that hurt to God to help heal you.  One book that could help you in the process of forgiving is The Art Of Forgiving by Lewis Smedes.  Strive to experience the beauty of restored relationships.
     Sixth, establish firm boundaries.  Some enemies may truly desire to harm you. There are times in life “to turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) but there are other times to “hand a person over to Satan” (1 Timothy 1:20).  Some enemies must be pruned from your life for a time or for good.  Seek the leading of the Holy Spirit to know which path to take.  I laughed at a mug I saw recently that said, “Please cancel my subscription to your issues.”  Sometimes that would be the appropriate advice.   
     It is time we begin to share the radical love of Jesus with even our enemies.
Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church