Some years ago (in what now seems like a previous lifetime and in some ways even something that happened to someone else), a bad thing happened. A business decision, made by people I trusted, turned my life upside down and caused a huge amount of pain and suffering to me and the people I loved the most.
But in life, I have found it does me no good to dwell on the past and so, since the bad thing happened I have tried to look forward and to rebuild. In some ways I may have succeeded and in others, I may not have done but as time has rolled on, I find it is years later and the ‘bad thing’ no longer seems as bad.
Then something happened which took this further. When I started to look into the Christian faith, I came across a couple of sayings of Jesus. One is, “love your neighbor,” which I can quite happily do as I have had some great neighbours. The other saying, however, is quite unpalatable. It is of course the saying, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6: 27). A more unfair, unjust, unreasonable and quite frankly, weak statement you will struggle to find and I would happily discount it completely. Except, against all the odds, it seems to ring true.
For when I look at human history, I see some of the giants who have changed the world for the better; Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, for example. All of them loved their enemies and from a position of seeming weakness, they changed the world.
Now of course, looking at others is one thing, but looking at yourself is quite another. But this was exactly what I needed to do. At the time I was wrestling with the Christian faith and especially with this stupid idea of loving your enemy, I heard that one of the people who had been responsible for the ‘bad thing’ was experiencing a very happy life event. While there was nothing I wanted to do less, I felt more and more compelled that I should send him a card congratulating him on the happy occasion. I managed to put it off for quite a while but eventually I bought a card, wrote an un-felt note of congratulations in it and then decided not to send it.
However, for some reason unknown and unexplainable to me, I eventually decided to go and post it. So I drove down to the local post shop, sat in the car for a few minutes wondering what on earth was going on and whether I had finally lost my marbles like I had always suspected I would.
Yet, as I eventually got out of the car and walked over to post the card, I had this strange feeling that this would have significance in my faith. I popped that card in the slot and hoped desperately for an earthquake or roll of thunder that would indicate the importance of this dramatic act. But as so often happens, the universe didn’t play the game; the letter just disappeared and I walked out to my car and got on with life.
So I don’t know the result of the card being sent. For all I know it got lost in the mail or was received and thrown into the rubbish. But I do know that a strange thing has happened to me. I have found that my memories of this person have grown increasingly positive and I genuinely wish him well for all he does in life. What I see is that when I love my enemy, somehow they become less of an enemy to me and may end up as a friend. In addition, I seem to change and become less of an enemy to others as well. So I am left thinking that maybe, when Jesus said, “love your enemy,” he got it right.
Wayne Perkins is the founder and a trustee of a humanitarian organization, “Its Not About Us” (itsnotaboutus.co.nz).
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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.