Relationships...the test of patience, the test of endurance and yes, the test of love.
As I get older I struggle sometimes with the energy that it takes to have relationships with those I love. Sometimes I'm tired and I don't want to exert the energy it takes to put into a relationship...even though I know in the long run that it will help it grow.
Sometimes I get frustrated with the dynamics of relationships...let's face it....some relationships we didn't choose. The people we are related to, work with, go to church with, stand in line at the grocery store with....not all of these would have been our ideal pick if we were setting ourselves up on a blind date!
And on the contrary....some people are easy to love. They work hard in the relationship to invest, counsel, love and care. We all love these people....we want more of them. We selfishly wish everyone was more like them.
But one of Christ's most challenging command was to "love your enemies...pray for those who despitefully use you". Well, isn't that....special. I'm sure Jesus couldn't have meant this....the haters, the gossipers, the users, the slanderers, the enemy....those people???....Pshhhhh...I don't think so!...Oh, but it is.
And it's hard.
And sometimes, I don't want to do it.
I just don't want to put the effort forth.
Sometimes I'm hurt and disappointed and frustrated and it's easier to become like them....the enemy.
That's when it gets tough. And I am faced with the decision to love instead of hurt.
But it's more than that...I'm faced with the decision to obey Christ or disobey Christ. That's the more pressing issue on my heart. Do I love HIM enough to obey His commands? Do I love HIM enough to love my enemy? And what does that even mean? God's Word gives us a few ideas for loving our enemies.
1. Pray for them. Luke 6:28
2. Do not talk about their faults. I Peter 2:1
3. Set healthy God-honoring boundaries. Proverbs 22:24
4. Live peaceably with them. Don't stir up strife. Romans 12:18
5. Forgive them...whether they ask or not. Matthew 6:12
Notice this doesn't say...invite them on family vacation or for your kid's birthday party. Even God knows our limits. And while some hurts are shallow...others pierce the soul and body and in this life will never be completely forgotten. God gives us opportunities to love our enemies without them even knowing we are loving them. It's almost like loving our enemies changes us....more than it does them. Oh...wait...maybe that's His purpose anyway....Changing us through loving like He loves.
This is the tough love. This is the hard stuff. This is real love. Sort of like the love God has for me...except my love is still flawed. It's not perfect..I will fail...I will mess this up. But it's the kind of love we should all strive for...and with God's power...we can love our enemies.