If you were asked to name the key point of a Christian life, what would you name? What makes a Christian a Christian?  What separates us from our culture?  Jesus is rather clear on this point: we need to love and forgive our enemy.  You, me, need to love and forgive the one who bugs us, rejects us, treats us with indifference, and even the one who causes you or me to live with hurt and wounds.  How impossible this sounds as it is easier to reject the one who hurts us than to find compassion for the one who hurts.  Now, I know God would not ever ask me to do something that is impossible, so what is God asking you and me to do here.

During the Sunday sermon, the minister asked the people in the pews to raise their hand if they had an enemy.  One honest soul lifted a hand.  Would you have raised your hand?  Sometimes the enemy is within ourselves, sadly.  Do you long for peace in your heart and mind?  In your home?  Among your families?  Our holding on to our anger as if it was good for us is revealed in our culture.  Confessing to having an enemy in your life might be your next step on the road to living into God’s call – love and forgive your enemy.

In I Samuel, God exposes how God looks at each of us.  To touch a place of forgiveness, seeing as God sees is an essential bit of the journey.  The LORD God is instructing Samuel, a priest, in what to look for in the new king. 

The LORD God says, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”[1]

God looks at the heart, at an internal part of the individual.  What does God see when God looks at the heart?  God sees what God deposited into the individual prior to birth, the heart of that one.[2]  This is the true self, the secure self.  Now life happens to you; wounds, hurts, disappointments, parents pass on their hurts and insecurities, and soon you absorb habits and patterns to accommodate your wounds.  With these series of steps, the false self or the flesh begins to control your life.[3]  And this false self is the part of us who believes that enemies cannot be loved nor forgiven.  Notice it is the flesh that gathers to itself the culture’s, or family’s, or even friends’ attempt to constrict who God crafted you to be.  You may want to re-read this paragraph and invite God to join you in your inmost heart. 

The true self is invited, even required, to love and forgive enemies.  It is only the true self who is capable of such a generous response.  You are invited to see into the heart of your enemy, as God’s does.  This view allows you to sort through a dense maze of their wounds and hurt, their addictions and limits, and to do this work without judgement nor self-righteous.[4]  As you sit with your enemy’s true self, may compassion bloom in your heart and mind, and may you be able to love and forgive the wounded, hurt soul.  Not because they deserve forgiveness, rather because you know you too are forgiven by God. 

The true self knows how deeply they are forgiven.  The true self experiences self-compassion as they work on forgiving themselves for the wrongs they committed.  The true self turns their pain and suffering into service to and for others.  The true self presents their pain and suffering as an offering of service unto the human condition.[5] 

Work of this nature is best done with the support of another. Please find a trusted friend, a spiritual director, or a professional therapist.  You are built for community.  And as you grow into loving and forgiving your enemies, you will need someone to walk with you, encourage you, and love you into More of God. 

[1] I Samuel 16:7

[2] Jeremiah 1:4 “’Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’”  God knew you – the you who God created – this is the true self, or secure self, or the heart of the individual that God sees when God looks at you.

[3] Romans 7:

[4] Seeing the wounds of another invites you to see your own wounds, your own limitations, your own blind spots.  Again, I encourage you to locate another trusted spiritual director to walk this narrow path with you. 

[5] Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in contemporary society, (New York: NY, Image, 1972), 94-5.