Today we often hear the stories of how the church has loved those who have loved them, but to that scenario Jesus essentially said, “So what?” Or to use his actual words: “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Mt 5:46).
Rarely do we hear the stories of the church loving their enemies, but those are the stories that go the real distance. For example, a story came to light some time ago of a policeman who fabricated a report in order to get a drug arrest by the end of the day, which ended up putting an innocent man in jail. After a few years went by, this policeman was eventually caught for falsifying other reports and was sentenced to prison himself. Sometime later, both the police officer and the innocent man he jailed ended up working at the same Christian-based store. It was there that the policeman asked for forgiveness and the victim accepted his request. Now the two of them are close friends and travel and talk about forgiveness and the Gospel. (Hartman, Steve. Innocent Man Ends up Pals with Crooked Cop That Framed Him. CBS News, 15 Apr. 2016)
And then there’s the story of a man named Juan Garcia, who murdered Hugo Solano while robbing him of a whole eight bucks. Not only did the parents of Solano miraculously tell his murderer they forgave and loved him, but they also fought to get him out of his death sentence, even though they were ultimately unsuccessful. (“Family of Murdered Man Forgave Killer Before He Was Executed.” RELEVANT Magazine.)
“But that’s a horrible story! Didn’t he deserve death?” we might ask.
“Deserves death! I daresay he does,” replies Gandalf. “Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give that to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.” (Tolkien, J. R. R. The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of The Lord of the Rings. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994, p. 601. )
If you really want to learn a lesson in enemy love, take a look at one of the hardest stories I’ve ever heard, which was told by Dr. Ajai Lall at a conference I attended. Lall shared the story of how some men tied a man’s wife to a tree and raped her right in front of him. The thought alone made me sick to my stomach. This is where the story ends for most of us, becoming an example of hatred, bitterness, sorrow, and even revenge. But somehow that’s not how this particular story ended.
The husband called Dr. Lall sometime later to let him know that they had 10 baptisms at one of their services that year. “Okay,” he responded. “Last year you had 40.”
“No, you don’t understand,” he said. “Four of the ten were the ones who raped my wife.”
“How did you do that!?” he exclaimed. “How did you not want to kill them!?”
“We went to their house and prayed for them and made our enemies our friends. ”
These are the unknown saints we must look up to. Their stories must be examples to us. Their suffering must motivate us. Their obedience cannot be overlooked. Enemy love demands our attention. That’s why the story of the cross has compelled us for two thousand years.
This is an excerpt from my book, A Taste of Jesus, available on paperback, Kindle, and audiobook.