It’s interesting to know that someone considers me to be their enemy. I’ve thought long and hard, and I can’t come up with anyone that I consider to be my enemy—including this person. Their opinion of me surfaced when my wife realized that she had not seen any of his posts on Facebook for a long time. When she looked at his page, she found that he was no longer a Facebook friend. She contacted him in messenger to see if he had closed his account, or if he had unfriended her. She received back a long, angry, explanation about why he unfriended both of us.
I’m the one who sent our friend over the un-friending edge. He did not like some of the posts that I put on Facebook. It was not uncommon when he disagreed for him to write a long, raging, rant. My general practice is to not get into arguments on Facebook. I normally just don’t respond to rants. Some of my other friends, however, have not adopted the same approach. My disgruntled friend was upset that I had other friends who would argue with him.
My wife read to me the entire message that she received. None of it was kind or loving. This is sad, since we have been friends for years. We have known him long enough that he has been to our Alaska house, our Sierra Vista house, and our current house in Sahuarita. We have also been to his home. In many ways, though, I wasn’t surprised. Our friend is a very unhappy person and has been for most of his life. Happiness and joy are available to him, but he isn’t willing to allow it into his life. I see him as a prisoner in a cell of his own making, not realizing that he has the key in his pocket. One of the lines from his message said something to the effect of: “If there is a civil war, I don’t want to have any friends that I will have to shoot.” It is troubling to me to qualify friendships in this way.
I’m very appreciative to have the direction in my life that Christ has given. Jesus gave us the example of giving his life for others, as opposed to considering the lives that we are willing to take. As I continue to study Jesus’ teachings and life, I find that it leads to peace and joy. I’m convinced that if our Christianity is guiding us to be angry, judgmental, and spiteful, we are doing it wrong. The common denominator in Jesus’ teachings is love. I’ve been told that I talk too much about Jesus’ love, and it would be good if I added in some hell and brimstone. I disagree with this advice.
For the sake of argument, let’s divide people into the two categories of “neighbor” and “enemy”. If we consider someone to be our neighbor, how should we treat them? When a lawyer asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, Jesus said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).” It appears to me that Jesus makes it pretty clear how we should treat our neighbors. How, then, should we treat our enemies?
How we should treat our enemies is one of the places where we see how Jesus is a radical. Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your God in heaven; for God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly God is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).
I constantly hear Christians quoting scripture to show why it is OK to exclude people, and to make people “less than”. This just isn’t what I hear Jesus teaching us. I call upon all Christians to rise up to the standards of Jesus’ teachings! If we see people as “neighbors”, let’s do what Jesus says to do. If we see people as “enemies”, then let’s do what Jesus tells us to do. Ironically, Jesus’ way not only makes our world a better place, but it also makes us better and more complete as individuals. I dare to even say that it increases our chances of being happy and joyful. Jesus’ standard is the one that I want to strive to reach! How about you?
Your brother on the journey, Mark