Love Your Enemies, or Just Don’t Have Any

In advance of MLK birthday holiday tomorrow we had Joe Harvard as our guest preacher at church today. Joe is the retired pastor of First Pres in Durham. I had the pleasure of getting to know him when I did a story few years back on him and two other religious leaders, a rabbi and an African American Preacher in Durham called the God Squad who worked for racial equality. Joe, has been a force in Durham for many years so his sermon today was well timed.

Preachers in the Presbyterian Church don’t get to preach on just anything they want, there is a lectionary that dictates what scriptures are to be used each Sunday. Today’s included the text to “love your enemy.” It seemed like a message we need in America right now.

Being asked to love your enemies seems hard, until I really got to thinking about it. Who are my enemies? There are people I don’t want to spend much time with, but that hardly makes them an enemy. There are people I don’t have a huge amount of respect for, but that doesn’t make them my enemies. As I really, really thought about it I couldn’t think of a true enemy.

Now, if you had asked me about my enemies in my younger years I am sure I could name you more than a handful. When I was in sales I might have said that a competitor was an enemy. But now, as a I age I am not sure I run into anyone who I might classify as an enemy. Maybe because I have a choice about who I spend time with or maybe I have become more forgiving. It wouldn’t be hard to be more forgiving since I was not that forgiving as a young person.

What I did take away from Joe’s sermon is that only love can change the world, something I have agreed with for a long time. Now, I am not going to like certain politicians who I think are not too smart, or like terrifically bigoted people, but I am not going to let them have power to become my enemy. They aren’t important enough to be an enemy. They are just people I have no respect for.

When I was a consultant I was constantly trying to get my clients to not see the people they worked with as their enemies just because they might be fighting for promotions against them. I preached that the enemies were outside their own company. I probably should have used a different word.

If you have an enemy try and love them first, but even easier is just to not have any enemies. Don’t give other people that much power over you.

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