My tendency is to glide over these verses that reference enemies. I mean, I don’t have anyone I’d consider an enemy — and for that I am grateful. Enemy seems like such a strong word; I picture duels and sabotage. But, the word used here can also be passive and mean someone unloved or shunned.
In Proverbs the word translated “enemy” means to hate, be an enemy; to be unloved; to be hated, be shunned; to be an adversary, be a foe. “Hate” can be active, as an enemy or adversary; or be passive, as someone unloved or shunned.
I might have a couple of those types of people in my life….. Most of us have a few people who annoy us (some of you may be thinking, why, yes Brooke, we do) — people we avoid instead of seek out (even if we wouldn’t really call it shunning) because they talk too much or are too nosy or always need something or just rub us the wrong way. They aren’t active enemies, but they aren’t friends – and we certainly don’t love them.
I think, in some ways, these people can be more challenging than true enemies. At least if you love your true enemy you feel like you’re doing something. With these people, just being around them is a drain. You don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything, and you leave more annoyed than you were before you talked to them.
This begs the question, then: Why do we feel more drained? If God tells us to love our enemies (in this case someone we don’t love or would prefer to avoid), and He tells us we can do all things through Him, why do we feel like we can’t? Most of the time it’s probably because we aren’t doing this through Him. We’re trying, in our own strength, to like these people (or at least tolerate them) and to meet their overwhelming needs. No wonder we feel drained. We’re trying to use our own strength to love like God!
Remember: While God did tell us that we can do all things through Him, he also told us that we can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5). So, if we’re trying to meet the needs of people who annoy us, and we’re expecting this strength and goodness to come from within us, then we’re going to be terribly disappointed. We’re going to try to do something good, we’re going to feel drained afterwards (or angry that our gesture didn’t seem to do any good), and we’re going to wonder why we bother at all. We bother, of course, because God told us to. We just have to resist the urge to get our marching orders and then try to complete them. That isn’t what God had in mind. He wants to do this together.
So, today’s challenge: Think of someone you find annoying. (If you’re like me, you’ve had certain people in mind the whole time you read this – but remember, this is more about you and God than it is about the people you find annoying). Pray about how you might reach out to this person. Don’t try to think of this idea on your own, and don’t try to implement it on your own. God knows how to handle this situation far better than you do. Simply commit to seeking out an opportunity to connect in the way God suggests – and remember to let Him be involved in every step, including when you’re actually talking with this person.
Finally, get excited about this experience with God – try to see it as an adventure, not an inconvenience. G.K. Chesterton said: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” Rightly considered, letting God love someone supernaturally through us should be exciting. So let this adventure with God be a reason to look forward to seeing this person. What amazing thing might God do with your surrender in this situation?
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