He was the new kid in school. I don’t know what it was about this kid that I didn’t like. Maybe it was his name, Robin. This sounded like a girl’s name to me, but I even knew in 6th grade this was not a reason to dislike him. I honestly can’t think of one rational reason why I didn’t like Robin. But the fact that everyone else in the school seemed to love him only made my dislike for him stronger. In fact, I would say that Robin was my first and most memorable enemy. In fact, he is the only person I can ever remember seeing as an enemy. The crazy thing about Robin is that he never did anything against me and never knew that I saw him as my enemy.
My experience with Robin shaped my understanding about enemies. I was ashamed of my feelings toward Robin. He only stayed one year at our little 2-room school with 30 kids in grades 1-8. After he was gone, I realized he was my enemy because of me, not him. It was about 5 years later when I was in high school that it dawned on me that I could live in peace with anyone as long as I had peace within my heart. You see, it was 1972 and racial tensions were high in Anderson, Indiana where I now attended a public high school with 2,000 students in grades 10-12. It seemed as though all the adults around me had an irrational hatred of the Black population in town. They saw the entire Black population in the US as their enemy. They had the same irrational feelings for Blacks that I had had for Robin. I knew then that I could choose to see anyone as a child of God rather than as my enemy. What a revelation. I could be free from hatred! I felt sorry for my parents, my aunts and uncles, and those at my church who seemed consumed with hatred toward Blacks.
Of course there are mean and hateful people in the world who may even want to hurt you or me. I may even need to say or do things to them that could result in them labeling me as their enemy. But as long as I do not see them as my enemy, I can enforce healthy boundaries, call them into account for their hurtful actions, and even report them to the authorities as needed. And when I do these things in a spirit of love rather than a spirit of hatred, I allow Christ to dwell in me to be His ambassador of reconciliation. (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-20) I don’t know how God does it, but I trust that He can make “all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
No wonder Jesus says to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus uses the word “enemy” to describe the person who hates me. This person may be my enemy, but in the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus tells me to treat him as my neighbor. Yes, Jesus tells us to never hate, only love. He tells me to be a good neighbor rather than to ask who is my neighbor. And in the final judgment Jesus will say to me, “As you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to Me.”
In actuality, I am my own worst enemy. It is my prayer that I will love those who see me as their enemy and be a good neighbor to all.