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Love Your Enemies…Forgive

Love your enemies -Luke 6:27

          People come to Jesus—in Luke’s words: “To hear him and to be healed”. To hear Jesus is to hear God’s word about our predicament, his love and promise of healing/salvation and to hear Biblically is to respond and to be healed.
          Jesus’ healing words today are from Luke 6:27&37. “BUT TO YOU WHO HEAR ME I SAY: “Love your enemies…forgive.”
          Who is your enemy? Do you love them?
          What is the worst thing anyone ever did to you? Have you forgiven them?
          We often refer to love as the distinguishing characteristic of the Christian character, but that is only half true. Jesus here says it is love of our enemies.
          It is no test of your godliness to love those who return your love, who treat you right, who are your supporters, etc. But your enemies—those who wrong me, hurt me, mistreat me, oppose my dearest causes, insult me, embarrass me, shame me, that’s different.
          Love you enemies is seen as an impossible dream by world. It’s even harder than you think. Most of us have trouble identifying people we would really call our enemies. However all of us have been hurt, wounded by someone and Jesus expands this to anyone who has sinned against us.
          We all need to be forgiven but we are also sinned against and need to forgive. And we often cheapen forgiveness by confusing it with forgetting. We may forget what is trivial. Or it is possible to suppress what is too horrible to remember. On the other hand we can excuse the offense. That however is the opposite of forgiveness which refuses to excuse or smooth things over.
          The lack of forgiveness can be devastating to our health—spiritual, emotional and physical. The late David Seamands tells the story of a young college student that he had counseled:

[she] shared at great length all the hurts she had received from one of her parents. She truly had a lot to resent and she used her capacity to the full. After considerable prayer along these lines, she suddenly jumped from her chair and cried out loudly, “But I can’t give up my hate, I can’t give it up. It’s all I’ve got! And though we talked and prayed for a long time, she did not give it up. After she graduated from college, I lost her in the passing parade of students. About fifteen years later, I was preaching in a distant city. A lady came up after the service, told me who she was, and asked if I remembered the time we prayed together about her hate. I assured her I had never forgotten her and had often wondered what happened to her. She replied with great sadness, “I want to tell you, you were right. After two divorces and a nervous breakdown, I’m beginning to realize I should have given up my hate.” Seamands HEALING OF MEMORIES, p.158-159)

Contrast this with the following story:

It was midnight January 11, 1989 in Sperry Iowa, when Scott Sullivan broke into a farm supply store. A reserve deputy gave chase when he came out. As they rounded a curve on Highway 99, Scott saw a sheriff’s car blocking the road. Scott hit the brakes but found they were gone in his VW Rabbit, so he decided to gun it. But he didn’t see Deputy Sheriff Bill Kreamalmyer standing next to the car. “Scott’s Rabbit slammed Bill into and over the squad car. ‘The only thing I remember,’ Scott confides, ‘is an officer with a gun trying to dive out of the way. I felt the thud, and to my shame, I didn’t stop, I kept going.’”
          Eventually Scott was apprehended—Bill remarkably was not killed, though he spent 4 months in a hospital. He visited Scott gave him a NT and witnessed to him.
          Years later, at a regular service for prisoners, Scott told his story—the car chase, the forgiveness, the new faith in Christ. Then he called Dept. Sheriff Bill Kreamalmyer to join him. “A stunned, wide-eyed audience of inmates listened as Bill—a cop who forgave the offender who ran him down—told them the Gospel message.” (“Caught in the Light” printed in JUBILEE, newsletter of PF, 2/92)

Forgiveness does not come easily or quickly.  C.S. Lewis had a teacher when he was a boy who is described as a monster. He hated that teacher all his life—But a few months before his death he wrote this letter to a friend:

The Kilns
6 July 63

Dear Mary
          …Do you know, only a few weeks ago I realized suddenly that I at last HAD forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my childhood. I’d been trying to do it for years;…And (like learning to swim or to ride a bicycle) the moment it does happen it seems so easy and you wonder why on earth you didn’t do years ago. (LETTERS TO AN AMERICAN LADY, 117)

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.…The grace to do it is from God. The decision to do it is your own.”   -Lewis Smedes, “Forgiveness, The Power To Change The Past,” Christianity Today 1/7/83, pp. 22&25

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