Thursday, August 30, 2012

Are You Insane Enough To Love Your Enemies…

Have you been hurt by others? Offended? Betrayed? Slandered? Maligned? Gossiped about? Cheated on? Stolen from?
Then I’m writing to you.
It could be small stuff. If you’re a driver, and some other “idiot” driver cuts you off, do you have this urge to press on the accelerator, overtake that car, and cut him off as well? Do you like to give him a dose of his own medicine?
Today, God will teach you the insanity of loving your enemies. I know it’s difficult. Impossible, even. But here’s a big promise: If you do this, streams of healing will flow into your life.
What I’m about to tell you is distasteful stuff.
We knew Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” We heard this command since we were kids.
But for crying out loud, we never thought He meant it literally. We thought that when Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” He meant, “Don’t shoot your enemy with a machine gun,” or “Don’t poison your enemy with cyanide,” or “Don’t axe the head of your enemy so his head rolls off and you can kick it off a cliff and you can watch his head bounce down a thousand feet below…” But somehow, we thought we could still hit our enemy a couple of times on the head with a lead pipe—at least to injure him. 
But Jesus was serious.
When Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” He meant that we really, genuinely, actively, concretely, go out of our way, think of the other person’s wellbeing, wish him the person’s wellbeing, pray for the wellbeing, and actually do something for our enemy’s wellbeing! 
Can you think of anything more repulsive than that?
But He meant it…
He said, You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:43-48)
To Be Fully Blessed, You Need To Fully Obey
Some people complain to me, “Why isn’t God blessing me?”
       Here’s the truth: God is ALWAYS blessing you. The problem?  Not that God isn’t giving us blessings, but that we aren’t receiving His blessings.
One reason?  You’re not fully obeying God’s Word. (Note: This isn’t the only reason for suffering. Some very holy people suffer for other reasons.)
For example, when God says, “Love your enemies,” are we really doing it? Let me say this to you loud and clear: I believe many don’t receive the fullness of God’s blessings because you have not yet learned to love your enemies.
God stated how we should love our enemies. He didn’t leave it to our imagination. He listed down explicit instructions on how to love our enemies.
Insane Instructions
The Bible even tells us practical ways to love our enemies. If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.(Romans 12:20-21)
Gosh. God’s instruction is absolutely insane, it’s tempting to think that God was joking. 
Usually, if our enemy is hungry, we don’t think of feeding him—We think of making fun of him. We want to gloat and say, “Ha! May you starve to death. May your big intestines eat your own small intestines so that you start digesting your flesh and blood until you die a horrible death.”
And when we see our enemy thirsty, we want to say, “Good for you! Serves you right. You deserve it. May you go so thirsty, your tongue becomes so dry, it crumbles to dust…”
But God says, “Feed your enemy when he is hungry. Give a drink to your enemy when he is thirsty.”
Believe me, to do this, you need a miracle from God.
A Deep Hurt
Let me tell you a story that’s very close to my heart…
In 1987, Light of Jesus Family was only 7 years old.
We were still very small, somewhere between 200 to 300 members. There were very few preachers in the community and I was thankful that one of our Elders, let’s call him Ric, was a very effective preacher. A lot of people admired Ric for his deep knowledge of the Bible.
Because of this, I always felt Ric and his wife Gemma were big blessings to the Light of Jesus.
Back then, Ric worked as an insurance salesman. But soon after joining us, he left his job and became a fulltime leader for Light of Jesus. And the community gave him a small monthly allowance. He also asked me if Light of Jesus could pay for his post-graduate Bible courses—and we supported him.
Ric and I also became next-door neighbors. We worked so closely together that Ric and Gemma moved in a duplex right beside the community center—which was my parents’ home. Ric and Gemma lived in one apartment and I lived in the other—with just a thin wall between us.
There were many lovely nights we’d just hang out together in their apartment or my apartment, chatting and laughing over a big bottle of Coke and peanuts. Those were beautiful times of friendship. I didn’t know that those happy times were about to come to an end…
A Punch In The Stomach
One morning, I heard a knock on the front door. I opened it and Ric was standing there, looking very pensive. “Can I talk to you Bo?” 
“Sure!” I said. I followed him into his apartment.
We sat in front of each other in his living room. Ric blurted the news, “Bo, I’m leaving Light of Jesus…”
At first, I didn’t understand. I kept quiet and allowed him to speak.
Ric continued, “I believe God is calling me to build my church. And more than twenty people in Light of Jesus are leaving the community and joining me…”
I felt Manny Pacquiao punched me on my solar plexus.  (Correction. This happened in 1987 and Manny was yet a kid. So the more accurate description is that I felt Muhammad Ali punched me in the solar plexus.) It was difficult to breathe. I tried to digest what he was saying. Ric, my friend of 5 long years, was leaving. His wife Gemma—also a dear friend—was leaving too. Not only that, more than twenty of my friends were going with him. And they weren’t only leaving Light of Jesus. They were leaving the Catholic Church and setting up their own church.
A wave of profound sadness washed over me. Ric had campaigned behind my back. He held underground meetings, inviting his friends to join him in his new church.
“Bo, I know this is difficult for you but I have to do this,” I heard Ric say—or at least something like that. Because by that time, I couldn’t hear him very well.  The throbbing pain inside me was deafening.
Bless, Not Curse
I walked out of his apartment and went to my room.
In my room, I sat down and cried to God. 
And while praying, God spoke to my heart.
I heard God say, “Bo, love your enemies. Bless, do not curse. Love, do not hate. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Don’t let good be overcome with evil. Instead, overcome evil with good.”
A few days later, we had a Light of Jesus prayer meeting. We were so small, we knew that some people were missing. People were asking, “Where’s Brother Ric? Where are Brother Ric’s friends?” So I stood up on stage and did one of the most difficult things I remember doing. I announced, “Friends, Brother Ric has decided to leave and start a new church. More than twenty of our members are going with him…”
A loud gasp shook the room.
As I explained more details, people began to sob around me. Others were very angry. Some were so angry at Ric, I heard them say, “Ric betrayed Bo! Ric betrayed us! Ric will never succeed! Their work will never be blessed by God!”
I raised my arms to quiet the increasing buzz in the room. “I’m very hurt by what happened. I’m as hurt as all of you are. But I’ve prayed to God about this matter. And it’s very clear in my heart that God wants us to bless them, not curse them. God wants us to love them, not hate them.”
Everyone stood up, and with many tears, we prayed together. I said, “Lord, we pray that you bless Ric. We pray that you prosper the work of his hands. We pray that Ric and his church will serve You and serve Your people…”
After praying for them, I knew I had to do one more thing—I had to visit Ric in his new church…
Love, Not Hate
When I walked in their rented venue, I saw our former members, cleaning, sweeping, and mopping the hall.
They were shocked when they saw me. “Brother Bo!” they all greeted me.
Ric was now Pastor Ric. He came up to me and we hugged each other for a long time. “Thank you for coming, Bo,” he said.
“I’m here to bless you,” I told him.
We formed a circle and we prayed together. Again, I prayed that God bless them.
I went around and hugged everyone in the room.
Before I left, I dug into my pocket. At that time, I was a poor 21-year old missionary, so I had very little money. But what I had, I gave. “This is my love offering to you,” I told them.
While driving home, there were tears in my eyes. But they were no longer tears of pain but tears of love. I realized all the hurt and heaviness in my heart was being sucked out by love. It was amazing. I felt a lightness in my spirit. Love really healed!
A Tragic Happy Ending
I wish I could tell you that this story ends in a totally happy way. Sadly, Ric’s new church didn’t last. At first, they were growing. But after a few years of exciting growth, his members dispersed and the church closed down. 
And Ric went back to selling insurance. 
When I heard about it, my heart felt sad for Ric. I’m a preacher, so I know what happens when a preacher stops preaching. When a preacher doesn’t preach, something dies in him.
Fifteen years after leaving Light of Jesus, Ric called me up to sell me insurance. We met for lunch and it was like old times. We talked and laughed together. I also bought insurance from him and referred him to my friends.
He also told me he wanted to preach again—but didn’t know how. I felt sad that this once-upon-a-time great preacher was no longer using his gift. I prayed for him that God give him an opportunity to do so.
I was happy to hear that a group invited him to give a talk—and Ric was very happy.
But soon after that, one day, I received a phone call from his wife Gemma. With her voice shaking, she said, “Brother Bo, Ric had a heart attack. God called him home…”
It was a sudden departure. The only consolation I had was the fact that before he died, we reconnected again.
Soon after that, Gemma rejoined Light of Jesusand became a Catholic again. She served the Lord with passion at the PICC Feast.  She even worked fulltime in one of our ministries.  
When she was 59 years old, God blessed her with a wonderful man who fell in love with her. Gemma got married a second time and they live a happy life together.
Why am I telling you this story?
To tell you that my life has been blessed beyond my wildest imagination. I’m surrounded by a wonderfully HUGE family and the most loving friends. I’m doing the most exciting things on planet earth. I cannot begin to describe how blessed I am!  
Why? One reason I can think of:  Because when I was 21 years old, God taught me to love my enemies. When you love your enemies, you open your life to so much blessings.
Who are your enemies?
Don’t just refrain from doing bad to them.
God wants you to do good to them.
Look, I’m NOT saying that a wife should continue to stay with a physically or emotionally abusive husband (Run away!); Or that an adult child should continue to give money to his mother who is a compulsive gambler (Don’t do that!); That’s not what I’m talking about. These extreme cases comprise 1% of my audience. 
I’m talking to the other 99% who need to hear this message.
Ask for His guidance. 
What can you do to express your love to your “enemies” today?
May your dreams come true,
Bo Sanchez

No comments:

Post a Comment