Sunday, March 21, 2010

I am Thankful for my Enemies

For the record:  I posted this at 11:55 P.M. in time to be a daily post.

I know its hard to believe, but there are people who do not like me. Currently, I don’t know who might fit in that category. I delude myself into thinking I am generally well-liked. In years gone by there have been people who set out to destroy me professionally. I have had several people try to get my ministerial credentials. The first was a State Youth Director with whom I innocently got caught in the middle of one of his lies. Since the lie affected me I approached the powers that were to clarify my innocence. The youth director proceeded to fabricate a whole set of accusations. I considered pressing charges, but took the Overseer’s advice to “let it lie.” A couple of years later that youth director was in federal prison for some illegal financial scheme. I’m glad I let it lie. It is so much better to be vindicated by God.

In one of my worst experiences I had been promised a pastoral appointment by my State Overseer. What I didn’t know was that a prominent pastor had misheard something I said directly to him and gone to the Overseer to report my supposed transgression against him (the pastor). I had actually said the opposite of what he heard. The Overseer did not have enough integrity to tell me of the accusation; he just kept promising to present my name at a church but never did. When someone told me of the pastor’s concerted efforts to block my ministry I went to see him. He admitted he had talked to the Overseer, explained his reason, and refused to accept my truthful clarification of what had happened. When I asked him why he had not come to me first as the Scriptures teach he responded, “I would rather walk around the block backwards seven times than confront someone with a conflict.”

Forgiving that pastor was very difficult. For a couple of years every time I saw him around town if just at a stop sign, I would find my fist clinched. I forced myself to then pray for him. “Lord, bless ______ _______, may his later years be greater than his former. Bless his family. Bless his ministry.” It took great effort, but I was sincere. Then one day I bumped into him on a hospital visit. We chatted a while and as I was walking away I remembered his transgressions against me and I became aware my fist had never clinched. I had felt no struggle. It was wonderful to realize God had helped me to forgive my enemy.

The enemies who are most difficult to love are those with whom you have to have a relationship. I have such an enemy. He has done more harm to me than anyone else. Yet he presents himself as my friend and proclaims how much he has helped me. He is fond of boasting of our long standing friendship and using it to garner my support. What he doesn’t know is that I have considered him my enemy for a long time. Circumstances and concern for others prevents me from confronting the individual. His gift to me is that he serves as a constant reminder our Lord taught us to love our enemies and do good to them. I have taken that command seriously. I have done my best to be a friend to this person. He comes to me for counsel and advice and I give him the best advice I can even at times to my detriment.

Lest I sound too full of myself, I must confess he is proof for me of God’s grace to help us do the right thing even when it is difficult and/or we don't feel like it. He is also proof for me that I am not entirely sanctified. On occasion, when I think about some of the things he has done and the skill with which he has avoided culpability I imagine myself confronting him, and not with words. In that scene one or both of us requires assistance getting out of the room. What can I say? I am my father’s son. [By the way, I have never been in a fight in my life unless you count my brother and my cousin Albert. OK, add Shirley to the list.]

I am thankful for my enemies. They are an occasion for the grace of God, a context for spiritual growth, and a reminder of my ongoing need for true holiness.

Cleveland, Tennessee
March 21, 2010


Anonymous said...

You forgot to add Ray to the list. Remember when mom put us on the corner and told us to take care of him once and for all. He didn't bully us any more. You are also your mother's son.

Lisa said...

I think Shirley should do a guest-post on your blog and explain that story in detail.. My interest has been piqued.. :)