My day began, preparing for my Friday morning Bible Study. We’re currently studying the Sermon on the Mount, and our passage today was the end of Matthew 5, “You have heard it said… but I say to you…”
Included in that group of teachings is the instruction to love our enemies, which raised the question, “Who is my enemy?”
I’ve been chewing on that question all day. The Greek word for enemy, used in the New Testament, is “echthros,” which means someone who is openly hostile, hateful and actively seeking to do me harm. With that definition in mind, “Who is my enemy?”
A few moments ago, I had an unexpected visit from a family from New York, who are members of a Bruderhof community. Members of Bruderhof communities are Christians, living in community, sharing all things in common. Their purpose is to live as close to the values and ways of the New Testament Church as possible. Bruderhof communities began in Germany, but now exist all over the world.
This particular family is here, in Coral Springs, to serve our community in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy. Their primary message is the need for love and forgiveness. Can you imagine traveling across the country, giving more than a week of your life, to share about forgiveness?
So, my day has been bookended by two common themes – “Who is my enemy?” and forgiveness.
I know I’m not everyone’s favorite person, and that some may not like me at all. But, I sincerely hope no one thinks of me as an enemy. Though I’m the target of an unfriendly word from time to time, I know that comes with being a pastor and a leader… and being an imperfect human. But, the messenger, no matter how harsh the message, is not my enemy. As the New Testament defines “enemy,” I’m grateful to say I don’t have any that I’m aware of.
You’re not my enemy if you disagree with me. Your’e not my enemy if you yell at me. You’re not my enemy if we vote for different candidates. You’re not my enemy if we have different theologies, or interpretations of Scripture. You’re not my enemy if you leave an angry reply to this post, or any other. You’re not my enemy if you leave something distasteful on my social media (though, I’ll likely delete it). You’re not my enemy if you cut me off in traffic… well, maybe…
Jesus, undeniably had enemies. They crucified him. The earlier Church had enemies. They were persecuted. Though I’m not always popular, I’m thankful I’ve never experienced having an enemy, actively seeking to do me harm. At least, not yet.
But, forgiveness, is a different matter. I need to be forgiven, for a lot. There are lots of people I need to forgive, that aren’t necessarily my enemy. I need to forgive family, friends, co-workers, brothers and sisters in Christ. I need to forgive people I love. I need to forgive some people I don’t particularly like. I need to forgive myself. I may even need to forgive God.
And, I wonder if the longer we don’t forgive someone, the more likely we may begin to see them as an enemy? I wonder.
Whose your enemy? Who do you need to forgive?