Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rubbing the Backs of Mean People: On Loving Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-46
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven...If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?"

I was chatting with a sweet mother the other day who told me a story of her 5-year-old.  The 5 year old went up to her and out of nowhere began rubbing her back affectionately and said, "Mommy, I love you".  The mom looked at her daughter a bit surprised and wondered, "Thanks honey, what made you say that to mommy?"  To which the daughter replied, "In Sunday School we learned that Jesus says to love people who are mean to you."  The little girl had had one too many time outs that week!

It's amazing the things one can learn from the innocent bluntness of children.  They have a tendency to say it like it is.  But as much as this story made me laugh, it also gave me a lot to think about.  For me, it's not always as simple as affectionately rubbing the back of the one I am in disagreement with, much less my enemy.

I suppose the word "enemy" might be a strong word.  I mean, in this day and age we don't go around calling people our enemies...well, maybe some of us do.  But all in all, what it comes down to on a day to day basis is that there are people in our lives who tend to irritate and grate on us.  Their voices, their mannerisms, their opinions.  They may be people who have deeply hurt or wounded us.  People who have belittled or degraded us.  People who have put themselves on pedestals and taken advantage of their role in our lives.

Either way, one thing is for sure: most of us are far from loving our enemies.  If by love Jesus meant talking about them, avoiding them, and feeling negatively toward them, than sure...maybe we do love them, and we love them well.  

But if by love, Jesus meant considering them first, building them up, going out of our way to be pleasant and kind, lifting them up in our prayers and proverbially "affectionately rubbing their backs"....then I must say, I have quite a long way to go.  It's a difficult task, this loving thing.  Like Jesus said, it's so much easier to love the people who are easy to love.  But at the end of the day, if we're honest with ourselves we'll realize that none of us really deserve love...

I'm so grateful Jesus didn't do the same as me when it comes to love.  I'm thankful He chose to love people who are irritating, difficult, unfaithful and mean like me.  I'm thankful that He sees past the negative things in my life and comes to my side to love this sinner in a fierce way.  I'm so thankful for that kind of love, and I am challenged by it.

Today, may we take the time to swallow our pride and bite our tongues as we learn to love the people that God has put in our lives.  Even the mean ones...


  1. Should I expect a backrub next time I see you :). Good stuff!

  2. I like a Dallas Willard quote from his book The Divine Conspiracy, “Who among us has personal knowledge of a seminar or a course of study and practice being offered in a ‘Christian Education program’ on how to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who spit on you and make your life miserable….Sincere teaching on such matters simply does not appear…We do not consider Jesus as our teacher on how to live.”

    BTW - you know the innocent bluntness of children. It is amazing that they say the most interesting things about mommy and daddy to other people.

  3. Sam, you're not mean enough to get a back rub:)

  4. Kevin, awesome's such an important lesson but it goes completely neglected sometimes.

    Yah, kids....can't wait to see what mine will say about me :)


Love to hear your thoughts...