I am in a bit of a historical leadership mode as I read and reflect on great leaders from the past. Thoughts like these are resonating with me:
Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lincoln and King Jr. were both in tune with the Bible. They knew the Bible gets pretty radical on these matters.
Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country.
You know what the Egyptians did. They enslaved the Jews with a horrible captivity and brutal work. Now, the Jewish people are told by God, through Moses, to not despise their former despots. Let anger go. Let resentment go. Let bitterness go. Let vengeance go. Forgive and be at peace with those who once oppressed you.
That one is easy to understand. Here is what I bet most of you don’t know. The Edomites. Who are the Edomites? It is simple. They are the descendants of Esau. Edom is another name for Esau. Esau is the one who will be the father of Islam.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says, “Esau may hate Jacob. It does not follow that Jacob should hate Esau.”
To answer hate with hate is to be dragged down to the level of the one who hates you. To answer hate with hate is to perpetuate endlessly the cycle of violence and pain our world has seen much too much of.
Jesus had a radical ethic of love and forgiveness. Forgive your enemies. Forgive your persecutors. Forgive those who hate you. Love them instead.
That is what God did for you. He loved you, suffered for you, died for you, and forgave you so that he could turn strangers into friends, enemies into daughters and sons, and persecutors into missional apostles who spread the good news.
It was a very high calling God gave to his people Israel – to love those who oppressed them and to love those who will be at odds against them.
It is the same high calling God gives to his people, the Church.
This week, may you take steps of real love, forgiveness, generosity, and grace toward anyone who is against you. I’ll try to do the same.
Remember, the only way you turn an enemy into a friend is through love and forgiveness.