Loving Our Enemies: ditch the plan and buy a burrito.
I have enemies.
Many of them are not my enemies in the traditional sense, but individuals I actively seek to avoid, ignore, or push out of my life. I am guilty of avoiding eye contact with a homeless person on the side of the road asking for spare change to buy himself a meal for the day. I am guilty of ignoring phone calls from people who frustrate me or who often carry on a conversation too long. I am guilty of pushing people out of my life who have made terrible life choices, be it friends or family.
I am guilty of creating enemies in my life. These are stacked on top of the more traditional understanding of enemies: people who have wronged me, murders, rapists, and the likes. Yet, in the midst of all my enemies, I have been called to love them. That's an easy order for the enemies at a distance. The ones I have no personal connection with or even interaction. It's easy for me to "forgive" and "love" the murderer who didn't do any harm against me or my family, but what about the victims family?
It was the realization of my created enemies that the ethic of loving my enemies became more personal. By no means does loving the homeless person on the side of the road match up evenly with loving the person who killed a loved one, but the ethic remains the same. We have been called to love.
Loving people is not mean't to be easy. In fact, this is not even something we can merely "do." That's too simplistic. Love is something we become. Slowly over time, one person at a time, one situation to the next, we are becoming love.
I started by talking about my created enemies. People who I actively distance myself from because they are not like me, they annoy me, or they do some other mundane thing that causes me to ostracize them from my life. This is not love. This is not Jesus.
I was walking into PetSmart this weekend with this message heavy on my heart. On my way inside, I noticed a man hunched over on a bench with a sign that simply read: "I am hungry." My heart dropped so suddenly that it could have been Jesus there holding the sign. It might have been. Despite this, I walked past the man, did my shopping, and made it back to my car without making eye contact with him again. I sat in my car, fingers on the keys, when I looked up to where the man was sitting. It was as if his sign was screaming now: "I am hungry. I am HUNGRY. I AM HUNGRY."
Loving our enemies is not something we say, but it's something we do. If I want to become love then I must be willing to change the way I interact with people. The world teaches that it is every man for himself, Jesus teaches "come to me." I am not perfect at this, but God never asked for perfection. He asked for us to love.
I ended up getting out of my Jeep and approaching the man. Our conversation was short (again, I'm new to this), but I took his order and walked down to the burrito store and bought him a meal that could have fed 5. We probably will never see each other again, but in that moment he knew he was loved and that was good enough for both of us.
I am guilty of misleading people when it comes to loving others. I taught a class at the beginning of this year all about loving our neighbors, yet failed to consistently remind the people of the first step in that process. We cannot give out what we have not received ourselves. "Love each other," we tell people. "Be kind, patient, forgiving," we urge. But instructing people to love without telling them they are loved is like telling them to write a check without our making a deposit in their account.
The secret to loving is living loved. This is the forgotten first step in any relationship, be it with our enemies or our spouse. Many are thirsty for this type of love. Those who should have loved you don't. Those who could have loved you didn't. You were left at the hospital. Left at the altar. Left with an empty bed. Left with a broken heart. Eventually you find yourself asking, does anyone love me?
Please listen. God loves you. Personally. Passionately. Powerfully. Persistently. God loves you with an unfailing love. And his love can fill you to the point where you have love worth giving out. To love others, you must first receive love; and you have.
Loving people is not easy, but it works. Take a solid look at your life. Who are your created enemies? We don't need a plan to love. We don't need all the right answers or wait for the perfect scenario to arise before we act. We simply need to love more. Find the people you push away and give them a hug. Instead of waiting for a phone call to ignore, try giving that person a call first. And if you meet my friend Henry who carries around a sign that says, "I am hungry," tell him Payton says 'hi' and go buy him a burrito. He loves them.