When Donald Trump declared that “the fake news media were not his enemies, but the enemies of the American people”, he makes a interesting point. Who are our enemies? The term enemy has very strong connotations though; it is indelibly linked to hated and conflict. Although you disagree with someone does it necessarily make them your enemy? When the Daily Mail called the High Court judges enemies of the people, it had the added effect of drawing a dividing line in the ground; you are either with us or with them. Therefore by labelling your enemies, you can make sure you are on the right side of the fight. It becomes literally comical, seeking inspiration from super heroes and super villains, a battle until death. It is all part of the hyperbole of social media news reporting, the instant ratings hit that comes from controversy.
Yet this is not a new phenomenon; enemies have always played a part in human history whether it be the enemies of a whole country, to individual grudges held. If an enemy is too harsh a term to apply to our lives, it is worth considering who we harbour hatred for in our hearts. Although if hatred is still too strong for you, there are always some people who annoy you and know how to push your buttons. I would like to give a few examples if you would humour me in as non- judgemental way as you think I deserve.
We recently treated ourselves to a trip to Disneyland Paris with the children which was a wonderful experience, but as with any trip with small children and a pushchair it has its moments. Attractions are not always the easiest to get around with a pushchair particularly when the place is busy, so having people stop in the middle of a path to take a selfie is an unnecessary extra obstacle. The thing about a selfie is that you can not actually see what is behind you when you are taking it so stopping in random places at unannounced times is incredibly irritating. Also queuing with small children can be painful, but when you are queuing to meet Spider-Man and there are groups of twenty year olds waiting in front of you to see a man dressed in a super hero costume, certain feelings are hard to repress!
I am not a person to say something, but a few grudges began to be formed and these inconsiderate individuals had become unknowing enemies of mine. Yet even as merited as these feelings were, the Lord had warned Moses not to bear hatred in our hearts for our brothers and to cherish no grudge against anyone Lev 19:17-18. This sounds like a New Testament forgiveness policy straight from Jesus’ mouth but it actually has been part of the plan all along. I would love to say I realised my error and prayed they had a great holiday in that moment, but it takes a little longer for me to come to that point!
However it is the person bearing the grudge that gets hurt in those moments. Jesus puts it even more bluntly if you love only those who love you, what recompense will you have? Mat 5:46 We are called to love our enemies and even those who justly deserve our scowls. It is a difficult, if not the most difficult, teaching that Jesus gives us, but the logic is sound. Harbouring these thoughts in our hearts leads to the bad mood spilling over into the rest of our lives when we end up taking out this frustration or annoyance on those closest to us. How often is an argument caused by something that happened to you early in the day that means your temper is shorter than usual?
Margaret J Wheatley says “you can’t hate someone whose story you know”, therefore one aid in this battle to love our enemies is to learn more about them. When we listen to where they have come from, it may not solve our differences but it will help us to understand them, to make them more human. To create an enemy, you take away all that is good about them and only see or imagine the bad. We need to try to get beyond this instant reaction and see past the dichotomy of good people and bad people , those that deserve our love and those that deserve our hate.
Yet if an enemy is one we do not truly know, then loving those we do not know is what we are called to do. Here I would like to offer three good news stories that you may have missed. Firstly a terminally ill man in Stourbridge married his partner in his hospice at a days notice with the flowers being paid for by a customer of a florist who overheard the story from the florist. Secondly a random person had paid for a variety of snacks and left them for anyone in the bottom of the vending machine in Christie’s hospital in Manchester to brighten someone else’s day. Finally a pupil from my school bought breakfast for a homeless man on their way to school.
These are the random acts of kindness for the stranger that display love for our neighbour in action. These are the sort of sacrifices we all can make for those whom we do not know and even those we call our enemy for the sun rises on the bad and the good alike. Mat 5:45