“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.” Luke 6:27-28
I don’t know if I have ever felt the weight of this scripture like I have in the past six months. We have a neighbor who has made it increasingly clear that she truly despises our family. I have spent many days completely spun out, feeling absolutely helpless and under scrutiny and attack. I have been angry, agitated, vengeful and confused. We have tried all of the nice “neighborly” things to do – flowers on the doorstep, kind gestures, waves, smiles, and hellos. Nothing seems to break through the veil of anger.
In Romans 12:18, Paul exhorts us with “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.” We take seriously this call to live peaceably, but the beginning of that scripture breathes freedom into our specific situation… I choose to end each day knowing that I have done what I can to live at peace. I do not seek to infuriate or irritate her. I do not glare back. I want to be above that. I am only responsible for my own actions, and my own obedience.
But this scripture in Luke challenges us to an even higher call. That is to do good to her, to bless her, to pray for her. It is not just pretending she doesn’t exist (though I do that some days). When I pray for her, I pray for her heart – that God would transform her, pour His spirit upon her, and break through the oppression that seems to surround her home. I pray for God’s redeeming love to work a miracle, to bring about peace and redemption. I would be lying if I didn’t confess that on some days, I also pray that God would bless her with her dream home in a far away land! However, God can completely impact this situation and renew and redeem. Until He does, I will strive to remain faithful to pray that He would strengthen my heart, minimize my anxieties, and give me His eyes for her.
I have felt a slow shift take place within me. I used to wonder what on earth had to have happened to make someone so hate-filled and so angry. I can’t say I haven’t let my mind run away with that one. But then suddenly, I found myself able to feel an ounce or two of sympathy. For the sad and lonely life that she leads. For the fact that she is missing out on the joy of knowing our Lord, and even in knowing our family. Our home is full of chaos and laughter, life and noise. I think that her heart might do some good to find something in which to find some joy. A merry heart is like good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22) And I actually felt legitimately sad that she has made it so that my family cannot love on her, or show her a little bit of the love that God has for her.
At the end of the day – that’s what it’s all about. That is why we are called to love our enemies. Not only so our own hearts do not grow angry and cold, but so that we can point others to their Creator. I have to believe that my prayers are heard, and that God will ignore my immature and ugly moments, when fear and anger creep in. And that He is able to do a work in her, just like He’s doing in me.