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Eliminating Enemies (published in The North Weld Herald/Voice 7/27/11)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:16 PM by Fccea Webmaster
Wouldn't it be nice if everyone saw life correctly as we do? Wouldn't that be great? But of course, they don't. And so we encounter a lot of difficult people, people who become irritants and perhaps even enemies. People who are different.

How do we deal with these people? Avoid them? Find another job? Undermine their credibility? We're driven to find some way to eliminate them from our lives, are we not?

David Platt in his book Radical, describes meeting with the leadership of one church to describe how the Lord was using various efforts to help poor and impoverished people in the US and abroad. He told how they were responding to the gospel as well as efforts to help them improve their lot in life.

He paused for a response, thinking the leaders would share his excitement. Instead, one deacon leaned forward in his chair and said, "David, I think its great you are going to those places. But if you asked me, I would just as soon God annihilate all those people and send them to hell." Is it possible that we've reached the same conclusion with regard to difficult people in our lives?

Here is Jesus' comment: "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. . . . If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them" (Luke 6:27-28).

Christ always sets the bar high, doesn't He? Love those who hate us? Tough assignment.

But what if we could actually get our arms around that command? What if rather than some grudgingly half-hearted effort that fails the first time our enemy continues to spit in our eye we could really embrace it? What if we determined to cause amazement by an unexpectedly gracious response?

Wade Boggs, the former Boston Red Sox Hall-of-Fame third baseman, used to be peppered with obscenities by one particularly vociferous fan at Yankee Stadium. The guy had a box seat close to the field and no insult was too profane for his use.

One day the routine started early, during warm-ups. Boggs decided he had had enough. He walked directly over to the man who was surrounded by his mocking friends and asked, "Hey, fella, are you the guy who is always yelling at me?" The man replied, "Yeah, it's me. What you gonna do about it?" Boggs just took a new baseball out of his pocket, autographed it, tossed it to the man and went back to his pre-game routine. The man never yelled at Boggs again.

Sure, it is not always that easy. And often it will cost a lot more -- at least in terms of swallowed pride or vengeance. On the other hand, wouldn't we like to see amazement on the face of an enemy, knowing that we put it there in the name of Christ? Jesus said, "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil."

Still want to eliminate enemies? Then try this. Just days after Appomattox, Abraham Lincoln received a hot-blooded contingency of former die-hard rebels. His gentle, friendly manner thawed the ice and gave them a new respect for Lincoln. But a northern congressman who was present excoriated Lincoln for befriending the enemy. He suggested they should have been executed as the traitors they were. Lincoln's wise response was totally in character: "Am I not destroying my enemies by making them my friends?"

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton/Ault