(and no, the timing of this has nothing to do with the holiday… :))
We spent a lot of time the last several weeks addressing our feelings toward those who’ve opposed and hurt us. Therefore we’re going start this week, and this new sub-series, by widening our net ever-so-slightly to include one more enemy—you.
All of us have been God’s enemies, and I’m not just talking in a positional, “before we were born again” sense. I’m talking experientially. Like earlier today. Like maybe even right now.
We habitually assert our “in-dependence from” God. Every time we take matters into our own hands, we very deliberately—and however unwittingly—separate ourselves from God and set up our own little kingdoms. For all practical purposes, we’re declaring ourselves his enemies in those matters. Our very actions declare, “God, I just don’t trust you.” We might well come slinking back in repentance later, with spiritual hat in hand—but that’s later.
I don’t say this with the intention of beating anyone up. Nonetheless, we operate in this manner a whole lot more than we’re willing to admit. And yet Jesus continues to love us even when we oppose him, directly or indirectly. This is why he can so authoritatively command us, “Love your enemies, and pray for them who persecute you.” He not only lived this out during his time on earth, but has been confronting our opposition since the garden of Eden—and since his resurrection as well.
Think about how you feel when a loved one is hurt or threatened. Jesus feels that way about each of us, especially those within his church. He’s just as offended, if not more so, when those who seek to hurt his people are those within the church.
Our offenses might not be as egregious as the ones committed by those people—you know: the ones you just thought of instead of yourself—but we’re not innocent here either. We too oppose Jesus far too often. We assert our own identity apart from him because, well again, we just don’t trust him. And by the same token, we withhold love from others because we don’t trust them either—because we believe our offerings will be rejected or discarded.
Jesus says: That’s not the point. The point is: Do you trust me enough to lay down your independence and follow me—and therefore, obey me?
We need to love the enemy known as us, just as Jesus does. After all, who needs love more than someone who clearly doesn’t have any love?
One more thing: Laying down our independence isn’t only about letting Jesus in, but about letting others in—to run the risk of incurring enemies, to run the risk of even good people opposing your good plans. And then, love them anyway. The people in front of Jesus weren’t obstacles in his path—they were his path. We’re called to follow that path.
You were never in this alone. You never will be, no matter how much you choose to live as if you were. So lay down your independence, let go of your own little kingdom, and become the person Jesus calls you to be.
Lay It Down Today
Who are your “enemies” right now? Broaden your definition as far as you need to—or, point the finger back at yourself. Don’t only focus on those who’ve hurt you—hopefully, you dealt with a lot of that last week—or those who obviously oppose the gospel. Who’s “in your way” right now? Who’s standing between you and what you want? How is Jesus calling you to respond to them in love, instead of responding to how they’re opposing you?
Confess your insistence on your own way—the way you’ve treated God like an enemy—and ask him to help you release it. Ask to receive his love and for the ability to extend it to others, particularly those you’ve just named. Then, take the steps you need to express that love tangibly—and again, possibly to yourself as well. Trust God to be there when you do.