We skipped church one Sunday morning. I suggested we go get donuts, something I’ve never said before. My husband looked shocked but quickly agreed with a smile. I appreciate his trust in me and how he goes along with my Spirit-led spontaneity.
As the three of us blew into the tiny donut shop that smelled of sweet bread and warm caramel icing, I saw the sign overhead that read “Hold Tight to Jesus.”
The woman behind the counter smiled with joy-filled eyes as we asked about their baked goods. A man with an apron came out from the back to greet us. I told them I liked their sign. What happened next has kept me thinking ever since.
We went for donuts but had church instead.
I typically like to ask entrepreneurs about their story and how they became what they are today. The owner, Lang, shared that he had been born in Vietnam and was a teenager during the height of the Vietnam War. He escaped to Cambodia and survived in the jungle for almost a year. He was caught, imprisoned, and persecuted during the time of the Cambodian killing fields. He described his experience in prison like Joseph with Pharoh. Even though he knew nothing of Jesus at the time, God protected him for a purpose.
At sixteen, he was sponsored to come to the United States by a pastor. Years later, he came to know the love of Jesus and saw how God had always had a good plan for His life, even with all the hardship he suffered.
Now, retired from his first career and a proud father of seven adult children, Lang bakes donuts to raise money to send back to Cambodia, to share the Gospel with the military, drill fresh water wells for the poor and support new churches.
With a smile from ear to ear, the owner said, “We don’t need much to live, so we send back the money to Cambodia so more people can love Jesus like we do.”
Because of Lang’s obedience in choosing forgiveness, his enemies now love Jesus, too.
I’ve been wondering since that Sunday, “How do I love my enemies?”
Luke 6 isn’t exactly in the top ten Christmas verses, but I wonder if it should be. People walked from miles around to see Jesus, be healed, and hear something from God’s prophet. His big stage would be a mountain ledge, and when He took it, Jesus announced His special team of twelve. Then, Jesus turned to these fresh, new, good-news disciples and shared the secret of what it meant to be truly blessed in God’s kingdom.
The disciples would have still been smiling with new roles, waiting to hear His words. The audience would’ve been holding their breath as they leaned in to make sure they heard Jesus’ every word.
But in that big-stage moment, Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”
He told them and tells us to love our enemies, to do good to them. Jesus said that is the moment when we will be acting like “the children of the Most High, for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:35-36 NLT).
Jesus asks us to engage with someone who hates us, curses us, hurts us, and to do for them what you would like them to do for you.
Can you take a moment to ask God who is missing from your Christmas list? Someone that meets these very difficult requirements?
Enemy is a strong word. You may not have someone hunting you down like the Romans were to God’s people, but I know there are friends that have hurt your feelings, a church member who has judged you, or a family member that has treated you with evil instead of love. Maybe this “enemy” is someone you’ve had to deal with most of your life or a loved one who spoke a harsh word to you that you can’t seem to get out of your mind.
Please hear me say, I’m not trying to dismiss anything you’ve gone through. Evil is real and tries to steal, kill, and destroy you from the hands of your God, who loves you. I’ve heard stories from friends that made me want to vomit in grief on their behalf. If you’re going through something truly devastating, I’m praying for God to fight for you in your situation. Please seek help and protection if you need it. Tell someone safe what’s going on in your life. Know you are valued and loved, worthy of Jesus dying for you.
My focus is on Jesus’ words and the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life. So, let’s assume “enemy” means anyone you need to forgive and actively love, even though they don’t deserve it.
How can you love your enemy during this season of giving? Jesus tells us to do good to them. That’s not an easy thing to do. It’s personal and unfair and NOT very Christmas-y at all.
But if I think about what happened in the manger, that’s exactly what did Jesus did for us.
For He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
Luke 6:35 (NLT)
And isn’t that what we want this Advent season, to prepare our hearts to focus on Jesus and live more like Him, so others can see the difference Christmas really makes?
I think about our new donut-baking, Gospel-spreading friend. How the light he shines is bright, like the star leading the way to the manger, moving over all parts of the world to lead people to Jesus. It made me want to do the same: to free up my heart to really love so others could be loved.
Take a moment and ask God who it is you need to not only forgive but love. The Holy Spirit will help you. Shocked by such grace, your enemy may finally ask where that grace comes from and look to Jesus to receive the love they need so desperately.
The path to the manger, to praise the newborn King of all Kings, is the beginning of forgiveness for you and from you. Choose to forgive so you can be free — free to receive more of God’s love and free to love your enemies.
Choose to forgive so you can be free — free to receive more of God’s love and free to love your enemies. - Stephanie Bryant: Click To Tweet