How to Teach Your Kids to Love Their Enemies
This morning I was ready to post a whole different blog. But on the way home from dropping off my son at school, I was listening to the sad news about the US Ambassador to Libya, who was killed when our embassy came under attack overnight. How unfair! How outrageous! Where is the justice? Where do our leaders stand on this atrocity?!
Already emotionally tired from in the wake of yesterday's eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the anger was welling up inside of me. Anger against a whole people... a whole religion... How different is my anger than that of the people who attacked us, so viciously? Anger hardens my heart. Anger turns into callousness. Anger makes me want to seek vengeance.
How different am I?
The difference lies in who I am IN CHRIST. Because without Christ, and without His command to "love my enemies," I assure you that the anger would have and has at times turned into hate. And, honestly, even though I am a Christian, I still struggle with the love-hate stuff. We all do, I'm sure. Loving our enemies is very un-natural; very uncomfortable.
Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? ..."
So, how do we love our enemies? How do we teach our kids that this is something we must do, especially living in such tumultuous times?
For starters we have to separate ourselves from the idea that the love Jesus spoke about is based on a "feeling". It isn't. Unlike romantic love, which makes it easy for us to overlook faults and put the other person first, Jesus is asking us to make the DECISION to choose to love.
Love becomes an action instead of a feeling. Much like the action that secured our salvation, even though we are sinners and unworthy of such love--enemies of God. He made a choice to love us.
Nobody is saying this kind of love is easy. This love totally goes against our sinful nature! While we are trying to step into the gap and pray for our enemies, our minds tell us, "I don't want to do this!" But to follow Christ's command, we must push through this very human emotion.
This kind of love in action may not feel right. It may not be instantly rewarding. It certainly won't be easy. Loving our enemies will be very uncomfortable, but it is through this action that the world will see that Christ lives inside of you!
Okay, we understand that Jesus has commanded us to love our enemies. How do we actually accomplish this so it becomes a real action and not just a passive cliche'? How can we show our kids that we really mean all this 'love your enemies' stuff we talk about?
First, there is a freedom you'll feel from not being enslaved by anger. If at all possible, do something nice for the person who is your enemy. Show kindness even when they have only shown you hate. Abraham Lincoln once said that he destroyed his enemies by loving them.
Next, we need to watch our words. Proverbs 15:1 says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Speak words of encouragement when possible. If not encouragement, then at the very least don't speak words of hate or retaliation. Words that would encourage peace and understanding would probably be the best.
Finally, we must pray for those who treat us badly. And, no, I'm guessing that praying that they get hit by a falling meteor is not what the Lord had in mind! Instead, intercede for them. Pray for their hearts to be changed by the Holy Spirit.
As I write this blog post, I am being personally chastised because I have failed so miserably at these commands. I hear the news on in the next room, and I know it's filled with the ugliness that is happening in our world. Anger and hate that are aimed at each of us. Bringing it to a very personal level... hate that is aimed at me and my family, our faith, our way of life, our very existence. I will continue to struggle with choosing to love my enemies, and then praying for those who do harm to me. I think it's okay to struggle at things that don't come easy to us, and diligently work at perfecting a love which is so un-natural. Will you work along side me? Can we be examples of Jesus' love to not only strangers, but to our very closest family members? It's a challenge we are called to undertake as Christ followers.
Lisa Strnad is an independent contractor in Christian media as a writer, marketing consultant, and public relations specialist. She speaks to Christian women's groups on the issues of motherhood, home schooling and raising a child with special needs. Lisa and her family make their home in Nashville.