I was in a cozy living room with a group of people I had been doing ministry with for a number of years. It seemed like just another normal ‘church’ meeting. I quickly found out it was not. I was asked to remain silent as I listened to a request for me to step away from my ministry position. In the confusion and betrayal of the moment, my heart began to rage and enemies arose--enemies with names and faces.
Jesus spends time in the sacred writings addressing our enemies. In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, He speaks of being blessed if we have enemies, and then gives extreme scenarios of how we are not to resist those who wish us harm, but to actually love them. Wow Jesus, really? The path of non-resistance and loving our enemies is not only practically ridiculous, but impossible.
Which, I believe, is Jesus’ point. Jesus recognizes that enemies are real. We really do encounter people who seem to actively work against us and poison our reputation with others.
Why does Jesus cut at our natural inclinations when it comes to enemies? Jesus knows the moment we take, sue, or strike, we are seizing identity. This is the futile path humanity has chosen from the beginning of time, when we desired to be like God. Jesus is directly pursuing our hearts. What is it that our heart is actually desiring?
Jesus wants to know: What will define us? The enemy? Or trusting the heart of God with our story? We need saving from this futile attempt to make a name for ourselves. We need saving from the poisonous desire of always having to “win”, or to be “right”. When we go after our enemies, by definition, we have concluded that we have a righteousness that has exceeded theirs. Jesus has reminded us already that we need a ‘rightness’ that is better than even the best religious people. And that’s where we’re stuck, right? We’re stuck because Jesus is telling us that the only rightness that matters is the perfect rightness of the Father.
Our identity can’t ever rest in being right, or in seizing our identity when our enemies come knocking. Jesus is calling us away from gaining an identity by “beating” our enemies, because it is an identity we will never gain. Instead He calls us to an identity and a solution to our enemy problem by asking us to turn our eyes to Him. Through the command to love our enemies, Jesus forces us to look for a solution apart from ourselves. In asking us to embrace our identity in the Only One who was ever perfectly right, Jesus is offering us life.
As the years have passed, I’ve come to see the evening that I was crushed by my enemies as a holy, sacred moment. The pain and scars remain, but the scars are sacred. In the midst of human faces and human words, the Evil One was raging a war for my heart. Who was I? Who and what was going to define me? While the Evil One was shouting in my ear that I was not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to be in my calling, I heard a gentle whisper that ripped through layers of my heart, and set it on a path to freedom: “I am enough and you are Mine.” The faces and the voices that I had labeled ‘enemy’ then faded, and I knew this moment was not about them. This was about my heart. This was about Jesus laying bare my sense of identity. In that sacred moment, I knew the rage that I felt was not for them, but had been for God, who apparently had seen fit to not bless my attempts to seize, control, and manipulate the ministry He had called me to.
In that holy moment, I gave up and cried “Uncle!” Would I, in this moment, step away from this particular ministry? No. I picked myself up off the proverbial floor, not because I believed I was right. Frankly, in that moment, I had no idea. But I did know this: I didn’t need to be right. It didn’t matter. In the crucible of that moment I found an identity not my own. I was God’s beloved son.
Posted on Mon, February 27, 2017
by Morgan Rise