The Enemies List

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 children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45

A tip of the hat to retired PCUSA pastor Ruth Kent for inspiring me. In response to this post, Ruth commented:

This is similar to why I keep an “enemies” prayer list. Not just because Jesus says we should love our enemies and praying for them is one way to love them. It’s more selfish than that. Praying for enemies (however defined, personally, nationally, globally) changes me and my heart. I don’t spend as much emotional energy on negative — and useless — emotions, and can spend more on the good ones. Also, I really believe that some people are just so deeply damaged that no human agency can heal them. At the same time, it’s not passive — I do what I can to stop their abusive, hurtful, oppressive conduct.

Some Good Christians claim they have no enemies. This is clearly not true. We all have personal, national, or global enemies whether we would use that word or not. The person who gets on our last nerve. The political figure who triggers contempt. The global leader who threatens to obliterate the world.

We can stew or yell or express our fury on Twitter. We can also pray.

I do not wish to be best friends with my enemies, but I can pray that God is with them today, that God melts their hearts to do better, that God will bless them while also protecting me and the world from them.

Instead of preparing snarky strategies for dealing with difficult loved ones over the holidays, instead of trolling senators who spark our rage*, instead of losing sleep about global obliteration, we might try writing down an Enemies List and then praying for them. It’s actually selfish in that it heals our own souls. But I think it’s okay in this situation because Jesus commands it.

*It makes Jesus cry when we take delight in the sorrows of others. Please don’t.

One response to “The Enemies List

  1. Thank you for this. At one point in my life I was consistently thrown together with another person who was, to put it mildly, hatred personified. She never missed an opportunity to belittle me, or deliberately “other” me. For a while I basically dropped out of all opportunities for recreation or enjoyment for fear I would encounter her.

    Then I remembered I was commanded to pray for my enemies, and started deliberately praying for her good fortune – not praying she would “get over herself”, or change her ways – just praying she would be happy and content.

    I don’t think she changed her attitude towards me, but I became able to say, “Poor thing, she must be so unhappy.” when she attacked me. It saved me.

    Like

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