From time to time, I run into people who pretty much hate me. Once upon a time, they liked me (I think), but something happened, and I got unfriended—dramatically. These encounters are relatively rare, mercifully, but painful nonetheless.
The good news—I honestly don’t feel anger or hate toward these people. And I don’t live in fear of running into these folks at the mall either, but I do feel pain.
Tossing and turning in bed one night, I said out loud, “Jesus, how am I to deal with these people? I’ve forgiven them, but I don’t know what else to do!”
God whispered to my soul, “Be thankful for your enemies.”
Not what I wanted or expected to hear from God.
You’ve heard it, and I’ve taught it: Be thankful in everything but not necessarily thankful for everything.
Yes, I’m supposed to be thankful in all things regardless of the good, the bad, or the ugly in my life. But I don’t have to be thankful for cancer or for any other horrible thing that’s happened.
Here’s my theology of thankfulness: Be thankful in all circumstances, but that does not mean gratefulness for all circumstances. So, as you might imagine, God and I had a bit of a disagreement. “Father, I can be thankful in my pain despite the sting of a broken relationship, but being thankful for these people, who consider me an enemy, is just stupid!”
The heavens were silent.
“Okay, God, why? Why in Your name do I need to be thankful for these mean people?”
Then it hit me.
I can be thankful for my enemies because of how God is using them to mold and change me into the image of His Son.
- My enemy provides an opportunity for me to love the unlovely, even as God has loved me.
- My enemy provides a path for personal blessing. I get blessed by God when I love the haters, and I can rejoice in a reward that will someday be mine in heaven.
- My enemy provides a profound opportunity for me to practice the golden rule. (To treat others the way I want to be treated.)
- My enemy provides me with a chance to be more like my Father, who is kind and merciful to the ungrateful and wicked.
By the way, all of the above is found in Luke 6 (you can click on this link and read verses 22-36).
Of course, we are supposed to love everyone, but why should you and I be thankful for those who curse and hate us?
Because our enemies help us to grow, and God uses them to transform us from the inside out.
Frankly, I didn’t see that radically different perspective coming, but I’m glad it did.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,
because great is your reward in heaven.
For that is how their ancestors
treated the prophets.