I normally don’t write two posts back to back, but I hope this post will be a blessing. I recommend reading yesterday’s post, Your Real Enemy, as well. I wanted to write about people today. People have been tagged as our enemies for years. If I were to ask you who your enemies were, I bet you could name a few people. It may be a leader, family member, boss, sibling, parent, co-worker, or ex-friend/spouse. I want to tell you once again, people are not our real enemies. People can be used by God or the devil. At any given moment a person can be used to bless or curse. Even people who go to your church can be used by the evil one, if they are not walking under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Here is an example from my own life.
My first job out of college I encountered a manager who hated me for no reason. This person started out by telling me how I would not be successful. This person then spent the next 4 years sabotaging small things on my programs, bad mouthing me to our boss, trying to get me fired, yelling at me in public, and basically making life at work unbearable. I did tell this person on numerous occasions they could not treat me poorly, but they feared no consequences from management. I prayed a lot during that time. Honestly, I prayed this person would be terminated or quit for they not only harassed me, but others. Some of us banded together to speak with human resources to no avail. In my mind this person was an enemy. I did not hate this person, but I could not see past their actions. I saw an evil person instead of a person God loved who did not know how much they were loved.
As a young person who loved Jesus the only things I knew to do were 1. Pray 2. Try to never retaliate 3. Seek help from God and within our organization.
Fast forward, after extensive prayer, I was removed from under this person. There was a battle to be moved, and I lost all the programs where I had invested time and energy. I went from overseeing 9 programs to 1. I had to prove my worth and competency. At first I was angry because my clients loved me; I worked non stop. I was not doing anything wrong. I had great reviews from everyone except this one person, but this one person was able to plant a seed of doubt in my boss’s mind even with over a dozen other people complaining. Let’s get to the good part of the story. This person after years of harassment approached me one day to tell me they knew I was a Christian because I never retaliated against them. They are now a born again believer. Yeah Jesus! Forgiving them wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. We can’t hang on to the things people do to us. Holding on only leads to our detriment.
When we want to retaliate against people, the thing to remember is that the person attacking us is someone God deeply loves. When people attack, harass, slander, hurt, persecute others, are unloving; they have not fully received the fullness of God’s love. A person who is filled with the love of God normally won’t knowingly harm another person. A person walking in the Spirit normally won’t either. Does that mean a person filled with God’s love and Spirit won’t ever hurt others? No. As humans we stumble. We are not perfect. We can hurt people without even knowing it. If we’re listening, God will let us know if we have strayed from the path of love.
Also, there are times when we are hurt and others are hurt and it’s because of our sin or perceptions.
Our Role in Loving People
The goal is to point people to God. The goal is be an instrument of truth and grace. It is not unloving to tell another person they cannot speak hatefully to you, especially if it’s someone you’re connected to (friend, family, spouse, co-worker, child). The goal isn’t to be the world’s doormat, but to show the world that evil does not have to lead to evil. Good conquerors evil. If it’s someone close to you, you may have to set boundaries with them. Check out Dr. Cloud and Dr, Townsend’s books on Boundaries. We are called to point people to the truth.
I hope and pray that we can see people as God does. I am still praying this for myself. We may not be able to be the best of friends with everyone, but we are called to live at peace with everyone as far as it is up to us. We are called to pray for our enemies, bless and not curse, to not do harm to others. May we live loved and love others.