What do you think about when you picture your enemy or enemies? It could be someone that hurt you deeply, or it could be someone that, for some reason, you just despise. It could be someone that hurt your loved ones or friends. What if I told you that you could get revenge on them legally, but it would not be the “revenge” you expect or want? What if I told you to love them?
I’ve been reading the book, “Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian missionary who was martyred during the World War II era. He says in the aforementioned book, “The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him.” (Bonhoeffer, 147). Or her. This is why I found that this is true, and why I consider loving our enemies the greatest ‘revenge’ ever:
- Because of the Burning Coal Principle. –What I call, the Burning Coal principle, is derived from the Bible in Romans 12:20-21, where it says, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (KJV-emphasis mine).” The Burning Coal Principle is where one consistently strives to love his or her enemy by serving or doing kind acts on their behalf. It shows the greatest kind of love, agape love, which promotes their well-being. This is the greatest “revenge” because when one loves his or her enemies like this, it does one of two things to the enemies.
- These people will change their attitude and/or behavior towards you and repent of their evil towards you. They will appreciate that you are trying to be merciful to them despite their mistreatment of you. They will know that you love them and are not trying to take worldly revenge on them, but will get a glimpse of divine love from you.
- If these people (enemies) do not change their ways and continue abusing and inflicting heartache on the person loving them , it will place a greater judgment on them. I believe God will punish these people for eternity if they don’t repent. Even on earth, they will most likely still suffer repercussions for their evil acts because if they see they are returning your good by being evil instead of good, people will most likely lose respect for them until they repent and show kindness to you. They may also be disciplined by authority accordingly, if their offense is serious enough to warrant that.
2 )Because loving your enemy changes you.—Loving your enemy changes you, I believe, for the better. It takes a very strong and courageous person to be able to even consider loving an enemy. But when you do, it changes your attitude not only towards them, but also towards the whole world. When you become strong enough to even consider loving your enemy, you will discover that you have a more positive image of your enemy. No longer will he or she be just this evil monster or witch-like persona you had in your mind, but a hurting, needy soul will emerge in its place. You will be more motivated to serve them because compassion and love takes over the dark image you have of your enemy. It may take some time for this more positive image to emerge, so don’t rush things, but take one step at a time, if you want to really love your enemy, as Jesus did, when he was dying on the cross.
At first, loving your enemy may feel like you are “faking nice” to them, but as time passes, you will be more able to serve them with a genuine heart of love and compassion. Furthermore, loving your enemy forces you to look outside just yourself and your own physical and emotional needs and gives you a servant’s heart. In general, you will love more and judge others less. You will be more tolerant of others’ shortcomings, including those you love, but also your enemies’, as you strive to understand all people better and get rid of the entitlement mentality—which holds on to your rights and doesn’t really consider others’.
3.) Finally, loving your enemy changes the world around you.
a.)Loving your enemy can restore broken relationships.—For instance, off and on, I had several people at work whom I would consider “enemies”, or at least, I was not on friendly terms with them. However, when my pastor (and, frankly, God) inspired me to put the Burning Coal Principle to practice, what I found was that the relationships were restored. In some cases, God restored it to the point where I had an even better relationship than with them before I they were my “enemies” !
b ) Loving your enemy can bridge divides—In Rwanda, when the Hutus and the Tutsis hated each other. The Hutu majority were trained to hate and kill Tutsis. Entire Tutsi families were murdered in this genocide. Some Tutsis wanted revenge, but some of them actually forgave the Hutus and eventually helped end the genocide-war.
c) Loving your enemy shows genuine love.—Loving your enemy shows genuine love because it is love that is not controlled by emotion or favor. It actually goes the distance and is supernatural. We do not naturally want to even consider loving our enemies because it goes our mentality for justice and our notion of fairness. However, when we strive to love our enemies, I find that we don’t focus on that as much. Instead we focus on not just our enemy’s good, but also the good of the world around us.
Loving your enemy is something that is very difficult to do. We (me included) fail at this, time and time again. But if we view our enemies as hurting and broken people, instead of the devil incarnate or just an evil menace, maybe we can change not only them, but the whole world