Love your Enemies – Where’s the Love? Part 4

Horses often wear blinders (or blinkers).  In horse racing, the blinders are used to have the horse focus only on what is straight ahead.  For teams of horses pulling a wagon, blinders are used to cut down on distractions, especially distractions that could cause the horse to become skittish.

 

Some people are considered to be wearing metaphorical blinders when they don’t see what is going on around them.  I often wonder about those human blinders when the subject of enemies comes into a conversation, especially at church.  Too many people have said that they have no enemies.  Do they really have no enemies or do they prefer to look ahead and not see the enemies in their wake?  Some of my “Christian” friends could fall into either of these categories.  Some are truly loveable people that you could believe have no enemies.  Others rub you the wrong way by simply breathing, but you aren’t perfect either, so…

 

Jesus said to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).  I wonder at times if some people avoid thinking about enemies so that they can continue to hate Them.

 

I am not so fortunate.  I had people who did not show restraint when confronting me.  Others were more subtle.  I once had a boss who thought I could do no wrong.  I asked him when a promotion might be in order.  His response was, “You don’t understand.  You have some very powerful enemies, high up in the organization.  If you stay here, you will never get ahead.  I don’t want to lose you, but please, look for a new job.”  He would never say more about who the enemy was and he wasn’t the last to mention the unknown enemy.  He was afraid that if I knew who the enemy was, he would be with me, looking for work elsewhere.

 

Michael Corleone, in The Godfather, Part II, said, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”  Some say that this was originally written by Sun Tzu of The Art of War fame or even Machiavelli, but the exact quote has not been found in either of their writings.  So, Puzo and Ford Coppola get the nod for the quote.  This is not what Jesus meant.  We should not keep our enemies closer, because we don’t trust them.  We are simply not to hold bitterness (Hebrews 12:15).  The passage from Hebrews is about the closest thing to “forgive and forget” that I have found in the Bible.  There is a lot about forgiveness.  The forgetting isn’t that easy.

 

I knew a woman once who said to me when I was young that she would forgive, but she would never forget.  She put the second half of that statement into practice when she was about 75 years old.  She walked down the main street in town and confronted half the people that she met.  She’d say things like, “You wished me to eternal damnation on a Tuesday, 25 years ago.  Just wanted you to know I’ve never forgotten.”  (I’m sure they used words more along the lines of ‘Go to H-E-double hockey sticks,’ but you get the picture.  When someone says that to me, I react by thinking of what in my behavior led to that remark, and how I could prevent that reaction in the future.  Knowing who said those vile words to me?  I forget.)  This woman’s behavior got back to family members.  They asked her why she was doing this.  The woman replied, “I’m old!  I can get away with it!”  The behavior soon changed, and she was back to silently harboring grudges.

 

I wonder if any of us love our enemies as Jesus wanted us to do.  Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t have enemies.”  He just suggested that we turn the other cheek.  I had a preacher once explain that turning the other cheek was to not be goaded into a silly fight, the concept of slapping someone to elicit a duel to the death.  It didn’t mean to not defend yourself.  I don’t know if I agree, but this preacher was trying to encourage my son who was being bullied at school.  At that point, I wasn’t going to argue.  Regardless, most of us have had our fights.  Some continue to amass enemies.  The New Testament often talks of persecution.  Some being persecuted are killed, but some are simply called names.  There are a variety of ‘enemies’ in between those extremes.

 

As for me, I would like to start right now taking action with regard to loving my enemies (not that I still call these people my enemies).  The following are some of the bizarre things that have happened to me.  They aren’t things for which I hold bitterness.  God has me in a place where I have to depend on Him.  It isn’t comfortable, but God never promises comfort in this life.  He promises us rest in the next life.  As for each time that I have been wronged, a voice inside (the Devil) tells me that I should imagine their punishment.  I always reply with ‘if they just turned their life over to Jesus…’  Alas, a few things are hard to forget.

 

To the seventh grade bullies who terrorized the playground grinding the groin of each young seventh grader against the trunk of a tree (pulling on both legs on either side of the tree and running around the tree at the same time) in full view of the teachers who also heard the screams until, in some cases, the boy passed out…

I forgive you and I love you.

To my seventh grade coach (PE and football) who 1) had Friday spankings (several at random depending on how much time he had) because he knew we’d probably do something over the weekend that would warrant the spanking. 2) Used a bullwhip on the last boy to leave the shower after PE, because the other teachers were complaining that we were late getting to our next class. (The welt on my leg took months to heal – my only time getting caught.  After a while, we didn’t care how bad we smelled.) 3) Taught me the wrong way to hold a football (without the ball touching my hands) so that I was guaranteed to fumble, and then screamed at me as to how worthless a human being I was when I fumbled. 4) After I had a doctor’s excuse to skip PE for a while, he ripped my bandages off, called me a sissy in front of the class, and forced me to dress out for PE in violation of the doctor’s instructions. 5) Established Friday grudge boxing matches which led to a classmate challenging me to a boxing match every week without fail (leading to headaches that lasted all weekend – probably a concussion).  Okay, okay, I could have saved ink my saying the sadist who taught Physical Education, but the details make you wonder why the guy wasn’t in prison…

I forgive you and I love you.

To the seventh grade classmate who challenged me to a fight every Friday upon the urging of the sadist coach (Why?  We had a crush on the same girl, and I doubt if she knew that either of us was alive.  The headaches were due to my boxing style.  I protected my body and face, but left my forehead open.  I technically won nineteen out of twenty times with the other match a draw as judged by the other students, but ask MawMaw, my maternal grandmother, with whom I lived at the time.  If she were alive, she would say I lost every fight.)…

I forgive you and I love you.

To the ninth grade teacher who threw away my game-worn college football jersey…

Te perdono y te amo.  (I guess you know which teacher, now.)

To the ninth grade coach who thought jocks versus nerds in dodgeball was fair and hilarious to watch (and M-W-F fun), even ensuring that the jocks always had the ball.  It was a blood bath if only bruises.  (One jock friend of mine refused to hit us.  If somebody was hurt badly, he would lob him the ball to catch, so that the boy could become a thrower and the friendly jock would become a target.)…

I forgive you and I love you.

To the band geek who stabbed me (in the hand as I defended myself) in the ninth grade…

I forgive you and I love you.

To the government official that drew my birthday out of the military draft lottery for number 4, ensuring that I would have a military commitment…

I forgive you and I love you.

To my company commander who wrote me a career damaging efficiency report to cover for his mistakes.  (It was so bad, and so obvious, that I had a Major and LTC tell me that they would give official statements in my defense if I chose to contest it.)…

I forgive you and I love you.

To the Major who replaced the best boss I ever had… (Why?  He had a giant bottle of Excedrin on his desk.  How he got a gallon sized bottle, I’ll never know.  He said, “The bottle is to remind you that I don’t get Excedrin headaches, I dish them out.  And you are my special project, boy.”  {Majors do not call Captains, “Boy” regardless of the circumstances.  I had just received an efficiency report from the Brigade Commander, his boss, that was excellent beyond measure and the other officers were jealous.}  He did his best to make life miserable for me, but he was only my boss for two months.)

I forgive you and I love you.

To the chemical company that I worked for in Texas who, by law, had to give me a job after serving my military commitment.  They did their best to offer me the worst job available.  This after I made improvements at their plant, while going to graduate school, that led to millions of dollars of added profits each year for the company…

I forgive you and I love you (although the company doesn’t exist anymore, but the employees do).

To my first full-time boss after leaving the military who had a personality conflict with me.  He later admitted that he simply didn’t like Army officers.  He was ex-Navy, enlisted.  This led to a stalled career that never paid off financially or paid off with job security…

I forgive you and I love you.

To the unknown high level executive enemy that prevented my promotion for the first ten years of civilian life after the Army.  The sad thing is that since the person was unknown, my offending behavior, if there was any, was left unknown also…

I forgive you and I love you.

For the boss who placed his giant hands around my throat and choked me because I allowed a salesman to take off $5,000 in order to get a sale… (We were still making about $25,000 in profit on the deal.  The VP of Sales pulled him off of me before I passed out.  The Sales VP later forgot the incident ever occurred when he became president of the company.)

I forgive you and I love you.

For a different boss who kept removing an additional $5,000 from the sale price just to see at what point I would exceed the budget or crack psychologically.  (I held up on both fronts, but I only billed half of my work hours to maintain my record of always being under budget.  It wasn’t that great a sacrifice.  The company never paid overtime, and he never gave bonuses.  It was going to be unpaid work anyway.)…

I forgive you and I love you.

 

Were those people my enemies?  Some thought they were abusing me for my own good.  Others didn’t take the abuse personal; they just enjoyed doing it.  But the important thing is my reaction to the abuse, or persecution.  At the time I may not have praised God, but I have since then.  Many of these events were watershed moments in my life that caused me to make the decisions that have shaped my life.  I have said that my life may not have been fun all of the time, but God has a purpose for me to be in this place at this time.  It wasn’t ‘good’ at times, but it worked for the good, in making me a vessel worthy to carry the message of God’s love.

 

We have spent too much time forgiving and forgetting.  Forgetting is for the little things when someone calls you names in anger.  When God has used that hurt to strengthen you, it is more important to forgive and remember.  What someone did in anger or hatred made you a better Christian, due to your response and your growth in faith.  Forgive them and love them.

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