“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Do you have an enemy?
Someone you truly despise?
Okay–maybe not an enemy, but someone you would NEVER consider a friend?
Is it your boss? Your ex? Your Dad? The jackass in the locker room? The group of girls who won’t let you sit with them at the lunch table?
Get that person in your mind…think of all the things you dislike about them…
Now picture Christ, hanging on the Cross, dying for that one person you don’t care for. There’s no one else around: no guards, not Mary or any of the other followers. It’s just Jesus and your enemy. And Jesus is crying as he is dying, asking that person to come join him in Eternity.
Ever thought of it like that? That Christ loves your enemy just as much as he loves you. I’m sure you know God adores you, but are you willing to allow him to love those you don’t like?
It’s easy to love our closest loved ones and most-cherished friends, but Jesus told everyone that loving those who love you doesn’t amount to much because it isn’t really a challenge. But if you can follow Christ in his mercy and genuine goodness toward all people, you are starting to “get it”.
If you love only your friends, then your love is imperfect and incomplete.
“But you don’t understand…!”
While I may not have experienced your specific trauma, I do know pain and anger and hurt and bitterness very well. Those were the monkeys on my back for years.
Attempting to forgive an affair that hit very close to home several years ago sent me into a tailspin. Have you read my story regarding the sexual abuse I experienced? I’ve been there, I do understand how difficult forgiveness and love can be.
What about you?
What if your enemy is your own self? Do you hate yourself? Do you loathe your behavior (past or present)? Have you ever prayed (or at least wished) you were dead? Brennan Manning said this, “Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from your opinions about yourself. ”
What would it take for you to find the freedom to love yourself? Sounds funny, right? But true freedom is that you can appreciate where you’ve come from, that you are hopeful about where you’re going, and that you love the place you are currently. All have sinned…but God’s love never fails.
Let us be challenged to love others in the same way that Christ has loved us.
I’ll leave you with a wonderful story by my favorite author, Brennan Manning, from his book Ragamuffin Gospel:
Perhaps you’ve heard this story: Four years ago in a large city in the far West, rumors spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The reports reached the archbishop. He decided to check her out. There is always a fine line between the authentic mystic and the lunatic fringe.
“Is it true, ma’am, that you have visions of Jesus?” asked the cleric.
“Yes,” the woman replied simply.
“Well, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that I confessed in my last confession.”
The woman was stunned. “Did I hear you right, bishop? You actually want me to ask Jesus to tell me the sins of your past?”
“Exactly. Please call me if anything happens.”
Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition. “Please come,” she said.
Within the hour the archbishop arrived. He trusted eye-to-eye contact. “You just told me on the telephone that you actually had a vision of Jesus. Did you do what I asked?”
“Yes, bishop, I asked Jesus to tell me the sins you confessed in your last confession.”
The bishop leaned forward with anticipation. His eyes narrowed.
“What did Jesus say?”
She took his hand and gazed deep into his eyes. “Bishop,” she said, “these are his exact words: I CAN’T REMEMBER.’”