How do we treat someone with whom we profoundly disagree? In the course of my stay in the UK I have met church leaders whose religious views I strongly disagree with. I have felt challenged and conflicted about worshipping in their church. It has made me take pause of the situation.
The Quakers have a saying that an enemy is anyone whose story we haven’t heard. As a Christian who needs to communicate with other Christians who have come to different conclusions to our own, we first need to listen to the other person to see how they view the world and at the same time, how they view people like us.
Jesus gave us the calling: “You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43–44). Showing our enemy love is showing them God’s heart for humanity.
Let’s face it – sin is the real enemy of the Christian. We are all battling with it. How another has a different parenting style, sexual preference, leadership technique, or denominational affiliation is not the sin that is our enemy! We may see the person caught in sin but they are not the sin.
In our age of social media, it is so easy to simply unfriend someone that we don’t agree with but is this what Jesus would have us do? We are called to love the sinner, not the sin. To love the “enemy”. How can we love someone if we have ostracised them?
Jesus set us the example of how He loved His enemies by feeding them, teaching them and having compassion on them even when He was well aware that they were going to kill Him. (Matt. 9:36; Matt. 12:15; Matt. 14:13-21). Jesus even prayed for His enemies (Luke 23:34). More especially, Jesus died for His enemies (Rom. 5:10).
Any thoughts that my conclusions are superior to those of my “enemy” crumble when I remember: “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other” (Tit. 3:3).
We all were once enemies of Jesus, but because He loved us so much and offered us healing of our minds, bodies and souls today -- a share in His exalted and glorified life through union with His death and resurrection-- we love our “enemies” and we love them from our heart.
All quotations are from the NLT.