Love Your Enemies!

With increasing unease, Paul listened to his friend tell about seven years of suffering in a North Vietnamese POW camp.

Ron’s captors had tortured him relentlessly. He described how he had been bound tightly for days and left in agonizing pain. “I heard someone far away, screaming through the night. Then I realized. It was me.”

Paul clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. Oh, how he wanted to do bodily harm to those who had tortured his friend so cruelly! His eyes blazed as he growled and asked Ron, “You felt that way, didn’t you?”

“No,” Ron quietly replied. “All through those days and nights, I simply prayed that they might come to know and love Jesus as their Savior.”

Paul’s anger rushed from him in a heavy breath. “Wow!”

Somehow Ron had seen his tormentors with a heart that looked beyond what they were doing. He saw their deep need for Christ and chose to obey Jesus’ command to love his enemies.

Few of us have suffered in POW camps. Yet at one time or another, we have all felt the sting of undeserved pain. Some of us–or those we care about–have suffered cruelty again and again at the hands of another.

We may want to lash back, but God offers a better way. Instead of stewing in our anger and biding our time to get even, we can choose to obey his call.

Focus: “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” ~ Matthew 5:44-45, The Living Bible.

How about you? Jesus said we will always have trouble in this world. But how might our lives and our world change if we chose to trust him by loving and praying for our enemies?

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Memorial Day and Dad

Memorial Day was always a special event for my family. Early in the morning  I would watch my dad, a World War II veteran, leave the house in his American Legion blues with his bugle tucked under his arm. While the rest of the city prepared for the parade and other festivities, Dad and a few others made their faithful rounds. At each of our town’s cemeteries, they honored our U.S. servicemen by marking each grave with a small flag. At some point during the solemn ceremony that followed, my father raised his bugle to blow Taps.

By ten o’clock, the town turned out to watch the parade. The moment it had stretched out over the Lawe Street Bridge with my father and the honor guard at its center, it paused. The honor guard fired their guns to salute our war dead. Someone sent the memorial wreath sailing over the railing. As it hit the waters of the Fox River and began floating down stream, my father lifted his bugle, and the clear, mournful notes of Taps drifted out over the hushed crowd.

Someone rightly said that we learn more by what is caught than  by what is taught. By watching my father, not only on Memorial Day but each day of the year, I learned patriotism. I learned to love our Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. I learned to appreciate the sacrifices of those who risked their lives to keep it so. I learned to honor our flag that represents the high ideals of our United States of America. Yes, children learn a great deal by watching their fathers.

During his lifetime on earth, Jesus–the Son of God–watched his Father to know what to do and what not to do. Referring to himself, he once said, “The Son … does only what he sees the Father doing, and in the same way” (John 5:19, The Living Bible.

He also said that if his disciples knew him, they knew his Father. So we, too, can learn from God our Father. By reading his Word and observing how Jesus handled situations and relationships, we can discover how to do the same. With this valuable information, we can make wise decisions that not only honor God but give us the high quality lives and relationships we long for.

Christ’s remarkable life is our sure example of how to grow in wisdom, love, and right relationships. No wonder the writer of the book of Hebrews urges us to …

Focus: “Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor” ~ Hebrews 12:2, The Living Bible.

How about you? Do you appreciate someone whose example inspires you?

(This blog post is adapted from a May 2000 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes on.)