A church teacher once asked her students to bring in or draw a picture of their worst enemy. Someone who had been mean to them. The next time they met, she had hung them on a wall. She handed them darts and had the students throw at their target. The students were eager and threw with power, getting more thrilled each time they hit it.
When they had finished and were busy patting each other on the back, she quietly removed the picture of the enemy and beneath it was a picture of the Savior, full of tiny holes. The lesson was taught without a word. There was not a dry eye in the room.
We are here in this mortal life to learn a lot of things and one of the hardest is to love everyone, even our enemies. In some cases, that's a pretty tall order. There are people who, it seems, have gone out of their way to ruin our lives and rob us of any peace and sanity. These people we call despicable and awful are also children of God.
One of the two greatest commandments is to love one another. Not "Oh, gee, I wish you would get along" and not "Only if they play nice with you." But this:
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
There are countless examples of inspiring people who have given loving forgiveness, even for the most serious wrongs. One such example is Chris Williams who drew upon his faith in Jesus Christ to forgive the drunken driver who caused the death of his wife and two of their children. Within days of his tragic loss, and still deeply distraught, this forgiving man said, “As a disciple of Christ, I had no other choice.”
How can we develop Christ-like love for our enemies? In Luke, we are given four admonitions to guide is in the process:
Love your enemies
This is the overall commandment and takes work. Lots of work. Think of them as children of God. Picture them as a baby in their mother's arms before the world turned them mean. Pray that the Lord will soften your own heart toward them and that you can find love for them.
Do good to them which hate you
This is going the extra mile, to be sure. Being kind, helping them, serving them, or even just smiling and wishing them well. Send a letter telling them something you like about them. A kind word turneth away wrath.
Bless them that curse you
This would involve speaking no ill about the person or people who mean to hurt you. The temptation is always present to diminish the name of someone who means you harm. Choose the better part and speak only kindness about them.
This final guideline would be to pray that they will begin to love themselves the way God loves them and become a creature who lives to bless others and not harm them.
This is not an instant thing. This is a process and it involves changing your own heart as much as it does theirs. I have much personal experience with this process.
I had a husband of 17 years that caused me much harm, physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and financially. I came to the point where I had to move on for my own safety, but in the process, I was able to take a step back and see the abuse he had both witnessed and experienced in his own family. It broke my heart for him. I learned to see him as a child of God. I learned to love him again. Though he was incapable of making the changes in his life that would allow him back into mine, I pray for him that he will. I have given him my forgiveness. The load that those simple words removed from me was indescribable.
I had another husband of nearly five years who also broke my heart. But I now pray for him as well and have given him my forgiveness.
Life with both of these men put mine at serious risk, but I cannot deny the blessings and divine lessons they taught me, not the least of which is the miracle of forgiveness and how it is as much for us as it is for those who hurt us.
I am free now and because I was able to learn to love them and see them as children of God, I am experiencing the joy of life once again.