I’m Thankful For My Enemies

I think we can tell a lot more about ourselves by the way we treat our enemies than our friends. Jesus Himself explains,

“I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44ff).

Being thankful for friends is easy! Loving a person who loves you in return requires nothing burdensome. But to love an enemy – or, more to our lesson, to be thankful for what our enemies do for us – is the challenge that Jesus sets before us. But why?

Without our enemies, our ability to love would never be challenged. I would never know the depth of my capacity for selflessness unless I had opportunity to express it.

“Loving those who love you” does not come with the reward, according to Jesus. What is the reward in this context? Perhaps it is the satisfaction of a clear conscience, or the peace that comes with forgiving others. Maybe the reward is knowing that you have overcome pettiness and taken a big step closer to being “perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.”

My enemies remind me that I, too, have been an enemy to somebody. They help me recall the ways that I have betrayed or disappointed others.

My enemies magnify the good people in my life. I learn to appreciate my wife, my children, my fellow Christians more when I see just how bad those of the world can be. I learn to stop expecting perfection from others.

My enemies give me an opportunity to perfect the art of forgiveness. They help me recognize my own sinfulness, and the need that I have for forgiveness through Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:14-15). In forgiving others, I come to terms with God’s ultimate power and providence by giving Him full control of justice (Romans 12:17ff).

So, as I reflect on all the things I’m thankful for, I need to remember my enemies in that list.