Yes, you’ve heard this before, you are to love God and love your neighbor. But to love your enemies, to love those that persecute you - what exactly does that mean?! It sounds like you are to encourage them, but how can that be? You certainly aren’t to encourage the persecution that is going on, that goes against the initial call to love one another. Let’s go a little deeper, clear the mist and transform this question.
Transform Your Thoughts
When someone hurts you or a member of your family, you do your best to stop it. You are shocked at what happened. You become angry as you think about it, “How could anyone do such a thing?” Then a kind of morose sadness kicks in as you admit to yourself that this kind of thing seems to happen all the time, all over the world. Worse, there seems nothing anyone can do about it. As there are no earthly answers, this is where your faith, and your subconscious mind, kicks in.
Your faith is a practice. The practice in a world view that is all inclusive. It is the basis of your “common sense”. It is also the basis of how to think about things that make no sense at all. Eventually, you are no longer shocked when bad things happen to good people. Somehow, you are ready for it. Blinding anger is transformed into a response that limits damage. The inaction of sadness and depression, is replaced by an interest in figuring the situation out and doing something about it. In other words, your fight, flight or freeze response is transformed and you go deeper!
To transform a thought, feeling or perception, you must go into your preverbal subconscious processes. This is why you may struggle when describing why you see and respond to things the way you do. Moreover, you have likely found that your words and explanations of others are easily misunderstood. I believe this is why Jesus spoke in parables. With them he creates mental pictures, and a Way.
What's Under the Water Line
John Murtha, a leader in a local business men's Bible study, often uses a sailboat analogy to describe spiritual understandings. A sailboat has many beautiful features including masts and various kinds of sails. Less obvious, but just as important, are the features of the boat that lie under the water line; like the ballast, hull design and rudder.
In any relationship, there are things you easily see, like the sails of any sailboat. There are, however, many things you don’t know about each other. There are even things you may not know about yourself. It can take years for a captain of a sailboat to master all that goes on above and below the waterline. You and those around you are much more complicated. Your subconscious mind is most of who you are and lies below the waterline. Through mirror neurons, it joins you with all the unseen forces in life.
You and those who share your life are like a flotilla of sailboats on your way to “the new land”. Along the way, some are running low on food and water and want to turn back. Others, feel you are going in the wrong way. Some think the idea of the existence of a new world is silly and feel you are simply going to drop off the edge of the world. Each of you, sail on in your own boats. Each boat with different qualities both above and below the water.
You can easily see where disagreements might arise. Eventually, a storm comes along. The shape, strength and weight of what is going on below the water changes everything. A faster boat with giant sails may actually sink under the pressures of the wind and waves. But imagine not knowing this. Imagine never having seen what is going on below the water. Imagine what it would be like, to believe that the bottom of each sailboat was the same.
They are not.
When a storm enters your life and relationships become contentious, remember: we are all headed for the same destination. The person who seems to be your enemy is unique, with unique insights given their past, their supports and their subconscious strengths. They have learned what they know from a different perspective. They aren’t awful, they are different. And different is good. Without differences, we would eventually sink. You learn more, and learn faster, when you learn to appreciate a point of view different from your own.
Loving your enemy is to replace “hate” with “interest”. What created this very different point of view? How is it that this is their best game? Do they believe what they are saying, or are they simply manipulating? If they are trying to manipulate me, why would they think this would work? What message am I sending out that has them responding to me in this way? Can I change this? If I can’t, where does that leave us? Can we make this relationship work? Or is this type of a relationship with this person better left to someone else?
Then there are family relationships where leaving the relationship for someone else isn’t a choice. This is where we have a lifetime to learn to dig deep and understand just how different we all are and to learn to appreciate it. So many times in the Bible, the apparent strengths of the eldest child (the sails), gives way to different kind of strength (the hull) in the youngest.
Yes, love your brother, sister, mother and father. And yes, love your enemy. There is much you can learn, and this may be the only way you will ever learn it. And this may be the only way you make it to the new land.