In one twenty-four-hour period, I ran into two families who pretty much hate me. Once upon a time we had been friends. These encounters weren’t the first time I’ve seen these people, but, ironically, my personal devotion that day had been from Luke 6 about loving our enemies.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in a loving, sovereign God who has a way of dealing with my heart. If I know anything (and sometimes I wonder if I do), I know that God is far more committed to my character than He is to my comfort.
The good news—I didn’t feel anger or hate toward these people. I wasn’t anxious or afraid. But I did feel pain and the angst of loss.
Tossing and turning in bed last night, I said out loud, “God, how am I to deal with this situation and these people? I’ve asked them to forgive me, and I’ve forgiven them. I don’t know what else to do!”
He whispered to my soul, “Be thankful for your enemies.”
Not what I wanted or expected to hear from God.
You’ve heard it, and I’ve taught it: Be thankful in everything but not necessarily thankful for everything.
Yes, I’m supposed to be thankful in all things regardless of the good, the bad, or the ugly in my life. (Did someone just whistle?) But I don’t have to be thankful for cancer or for any other horrible thing that’s happened.
Thankfulness in all circumstances does not mean gratefulness for all circumstances. Thankful in but not always thankful for is good theology.
So God and I had a bit of a disagreement. “Father, I can be thankful in my pain and despite the sting of a broken relationship, but being thankful for these people, my enemies, is just stupid!”
The heavens were silent.
“Okay, God, why?”
Then it hit me.
I can be thankful for my enemies because of the way God is using them to mold and change me into the image of His Son. (You might want to go back and read that last line again.)
My enemy provides an opportunity for me to love the unlovely even as God has loved me.
My enemy provides a path for personal blessing. I get blessed by God when I love the haters, and I can rejoice in a reward that will someday be mine in heaven.
My enemy provides a profound opportunity for me to practice the golden rule.
My enemy provides me with a chance to be more like my Father, who is kind and merciful to the ungrateful and wicked.
By the way, all of the above can be found in Luke 6 (you should click on this link and read verses 22-36).
Of course, we are supposed to love everyone, but why should you and I be thankful for those who curse and hate us?
Because our enemies help us to grow.
Being thankful for those who hate me changes my fear about them or my frustration with them into a radically different perspective.
My enemy is a gift. A gift I can be thankful for.
Didn’t see that one coming, but I’m glad I did.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,
because great is your reward in heaven.
For that is how their ancestors
treated the prophets.
Luke 6: 22-23