How to Love Enemies

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Valentine’s Day

For DAD Only:

Love Gives Itself

Her dad hit her with a piece of metal.  The teacher saw the mark.  Dad had to leave the home.

But Dad loves his daughter.  We discover this as we observe him weeping before his counselor.  He bemoans the separation, expressing the guilt he feels, the heartbreak.  He wishes he could have communicated his love better.  He wanted the best for his family.  He wanted his girl to have a clean room.  He wanted her to be safe.  He wanted her to live without shame.  He didn’t want her to get pregnant in high school.  He wanted her to have strong morals and stay out of trouble.

So why did he hit her?

Because love and hate, like heads and tails, are minted into the same currency of human interactions.  Both are passionate forces.  One for good, the other for destruction.  The problem lies in the fact that most men don’t know how to communicate love.  We speak anger and doubt easier than any other emotions.  (Women, by the way, might speak complaining and criticism more easily than love.)  Not only does this cause stress in the marriage, it creates tension with the children as well, or worse.

Here’s how it works: Dad sees his daughter’s room piled with clothes and toys.  He loves his daughter enough that he doesn’t want her to grow up being a slob.  Without thinking, he acts on impulse to stop her from destructive behavior.  He yells.  He picks up the closest thing on the floor to get his point across.

She doesn’t interpret his actions as love or parental concern.  She feels hated, rejected, and more than physically injured.  He cares, but says so in a destructive way.  Dad should set her down and speak his concern to her.  He must push past the emotion and focus on the issues.  He must make sure she understands the importance of a clean room.  He has to discipline her but not in cruelty.  She won’t be any more grounded if he yells than if he speaks in a quiet voice.  Throwing things and pacing the room won’t motivate her to do better.  Dad must value her more than her transgression.

A loving father can easily become a control freak.  A control freak easily grows into a tyrant.  A tyrant will lose his children, either by government intervention or by emotional distance.

Okay, so enough about the bad stuff.  To master this concept, Dad, we have to get God’s perspective on love.  Most people think love is hugs and kisses.  However, Christ didn’t come to earth hugging and kissing everyone.  We don’t read of Him in the gospels sobbing and crying, “Oh, I love you all so much.  You don’t know what this means to Me to finally be here with you all.”  No.  He showed His love in action.  He went around doing good, helping people and eventually suffering, dying.

Dad, we cherish the family (Ephesians 5:29).  The cherishing kind of love puts the child first.  A father who cherishes his kids will sacrifice for them.  He will give until it hurts (Ephesians 5:25; Matthew 20:28).  Ask yourself when you last gave for your children (toys and money don’t necessarily count). 
How often do we dads actually sacrifice?
I did.  And I mention it because I don’t feel like I do this enough for my children. A few years ago on my birthday, I wanted to do something special.  My son, the one who wears the St. Bernard slippers, said, “I know something fun we could do.  Let’s go build a fire out by our fort.”

“But it’s winter.  We do campfires when it’s warm outside,” I replied from my easy chair.

“I know,” he persisted, “but summer campfires are too hot.  We need to do campfires now when it’s cold so we can stand close to it.”

Well, when I said “doing something fun” I meant something like food or travel or at least playing a game in the warm indoors.  Instead, I gave myself for my son (and his siblings who rallied to the cause).  So “happy birthday to me” as I blew and blew and blue in the face, trying to get his campfire going with ice-covered wood.  For two hours I nursed and fanned and poked in more paper and twigs, trying to get the iceified logs to ignite.

My son gave up on the idea.  Everyone else but he and I had.  He was too cold and wanted to go back in the house.  I agreed.  We stood to leave and the wood suddenly caught fire.  We sat down and warmed our red hands and wet knees in its smoky radiance.

At least my desire for food didn’t remain forsaken.  He rigged a pot over the fire, filled with murky rain water in which he boiled a dozen eggs.  Again, I was down on my knees blowing the coals to keep the water hot.

Cherish your child.  It’s about putting their desires before mine.  Dad, if we cherish our children, we will put them in our schedules.  We will look for ways of amusing them.  We will take time to read to them, play games together, and teach them about God.  Think of how much God has given for us when you think about what it takes to be a good dad.

Oh, by-the-way… when I asked my son to tidy up his room later that day, he did it in five minutes without complaint.

________________________

Dad, read this story with your kids:

Valentines Bully

Misty and Rusty hurried into the warm minivan to get out of the cold winter air.  Mom and Dad had been talking with other church folks, but now they came out and climbed into the running van, too.

“Did you two have a good time in children’s church?” Dad asked.

“Yes,” Rusty said.  “We learned about enemies.”

“Good,” Mom said smiling at him, “what did you learn about them?”

“That the Bible says we should love our enemies, pray for them, and do nice things for them even if they say bad things about us and are rude.”

Misty spoke up as the van began moving out of the parking lot, “But I don’t understand.  Why do we have to have enemies?”

“We don’t have to, Misty,” Rusty said.  “We just do.”

“I don’t have any enemies.”

“Well, that’s a good thing, Misty,” Dad said.

No one spoke for a moment as the vehicle turned onto the highway.

“I don’t need that verse, Rusty,” Misty said, after Mom and Dad had started talking about other things.  “But you do.”

“Nuh-uh.  I don’t either.”

“Yes huh!  Remember the Peterson boys?  They are your enemies.”

“Yours too.”

She shook her head. “Hmm-mm, they never pick on me, they always pick on you.”

“Well, you still need to know the verse, Misty.”

She smiled and shook her head no.  “Everyone is my friend.  I’m giving cupcakes to my whole class at school.”

*     *     *

Misty got up early the next day.  Mom helped her mix the batter for her treats.  Misty counted out the paper and foil holders for her cupcakes.  “See, Mom, I picked out some with little hearts on them.”

“That will be a very nice Valentine’s Day gift.”

“Yeah, it’s a lot more fun than giving out cards.”

“How many are you making?”

“There are fifteen kids in my class.  So that’s how many I made.”

“Well, honey, you have room in this muffin tin for one more cupcake.”

“I know, but who will I give it to?  I don’t have any enemies.”

“What about your brother?”

“He’s not my enemy!”

Mom laughed.  “I know.  I mean, maybe he would like one.”

“Oh, sure.”  Misty put another cupcake paper in.   Her mom handed her the bowl of cake mix.  Misty spooned the soupy mixture into the sixteen cupcake holders.

She ran to get ready for school while the cupcakes baked.  It took her a few minutes to brush out her hair and put it in a ponytail.  On her way out the door she handed one to Rusty.  He smiled and thanked her for the surprise.

Soon, Dad dropped them off at school.  Misty’s face glowed with excitement as she walked into class.  “Teacher, I brought cupcakes for my whole class.”

Teacher smiled and said they could share her snack at recess.

“Hey, look, Goldilocks brought food!” said Billy.  Billy was bigger than the other kids in his class.  When he was mean to other kids they called him “Billy the Bully.”

Misty ignored him and put the box on the shelf at the back of the class.  On her way to her chair, Billy stuck out his foot and tripped her.  She almost fell.

“Billy!” Teacher said.

Billy chuckled and just stared at the back of Misty’s hair as she sat down in front of him.

Misty forgot about Billy quickly when they began talking about their homework.  But when the students began reading, Billy began teasing Misty.  He whispered, “Hey, Goldilocks.”

Misty focused on the reading and ignored Billy the Bully.

“Goldilocks.  Psst, hey, Goldilocks.”

One of the other kids was reading, so Misty tried to follow along in the story book, but she couldn’t help but notice that Billy was making noise behind her.  It sounded like he was pulling something out of his desk.  She thought she heard him open a small container.

“Hey, Goldilocks,” he whispered, “I want to share some food with you.”

Suddenly, Misty felt her head being pulled back by her ponytail.  “Billy, stop it!” she whispered.  He pulled harder and then let go.

Misty grabbed her ponytail and jerked away from him.  She pulled her hair over her shoulder and suddenly touched something slimy.  “Gross!” she shouted.

“Misty?  We are reading right now.”

“Teacher!  Billy just put something gross in my hair!”  Misty stood up and looked at Billy.  “Why are you so mean?”

Billy laughed.  “I said I wanted to share some food with you.  I thought you would like banana pudding!”

“Oh!  This is just gross!  Teacher, may I go to the restroom?”

Teacher said, “Yes, and Billy, you may go to the principle.”

Misty marched out to the girl’s room, trying not to cry.  In the restroom she did.  She grabbed some paper towels and tried to wipe the gook out.  “That Billy is so mean.”  She put her head near the sink and ran water over the ends of her hair.  “I’m not going to share my food with him.”  She took out more paper towels and dried her hair as well as she could.

When she finally got back to class, Billy was back in his seat.  He didn’t look at her when she walked in.  He just stared at his desk.  Before she sat down, Teacher said, “It’s time for a snack.  Misty, did you have something for us?”

She smiled.  “Yes.”  She walked over to the back counter and picked up the cupcakes.  She began setting them on each student’s desk, saying, “I made one for everybody.”  She told herself, “I wish I hadn’t made one for Billy, he’s such a bully.”

Teacher said, “Those look really good.”

Misty glanced at Billy and then smirked, “Would you like one, too?”

Teacher said, “Sure, if you have enough.”

“Yes, I do.”

Misty put one on Teacher’s desk and finished putting them on all the student’s desks, except Billy’s.  Then she took the last cupcake and sat down at her desk.

The other kids started eating and thanking her for the yummy treat.  She stared at her cupcake.

“Did you make these yourself, Misty?” the boy across the aisle asked.

She smiled.  “No, Mom helped me.”

“Mmmm, they’re good.”

“Thanks.” She picked hers up and looked at it.  The little hearts on the cupcake paper said “I love U.”  She thought about Billy.  She thought about the verse she’d learned at children’s church the night before.

Misty looked at the clock.  She looked at her fingernails.  She looked at the cupcake.  She looked at her teacher.  Teacher smiled and said, “Very good cupcake.”

Misty smiled back.  She looked at her cupcake.  She looked at the floor.  She glanced behind her to see Billy.  He was staring out the window.  She glanced at her cupcake.  She looked at the floor.  She picked up her cupcake and turned around to Billy.

He glanced at her and the looked at the window again.

“Billy,” she whispered.  Some of the other kids turned their heads to see what she would say.

Billy looked at her again.

Misty sighed.  “Billy, I want you to have my cupcake.”

“Really?” he asked.

She picked up her cupcake and passed it over the desk to her enemy.

Billy took it and smiled.  He peeled back the paper, took a big bite of the cupcake, and said, “Thanksh, Mishthy.”

“Oh, Billy!” she groaned.

___________

Now, get them discussing the meaning!

Why did Misty find it hard to be nice to Billy?

Why did she finally give him the cupcake?

Tell us about a time you dealt with a Bully.

Listen carefully, many kids don’t tell their parents about other kids that threaten them.  A listening parent can prevent social scarring or even injury.

Should Misty hang around Billy and try to be his friend (such as going biking or fishing with him)?

No.  She should be nice to him, but stay away from him until he learns how to treat people better.  Making friends like that will make us behave like them.

Will Billy be a nice person now just because she gave him a cupcake?

No.  We don’t do kind things to mean people because it makes them nice.  We do this because it is right.

You may have to wait until after the Bible story to explain this better.

________________________

Read the following scripture with the family:

Healing the Enemy

John 18:1-11

When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.  And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples.

Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”

They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.  Then– when He said to them, “I am He,”– they drew back and fell to the ground.

Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?”

And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.  Then Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”

But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.

Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs?  When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed at a distance.

(Luke 22:51-54, NKJ)

________________________
Read the following scripture with the family:

How does Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ enemies seem very similar to the way we respond to ours?

We often hope that by being nice to our adversaries that they will be nice to us.  What did Jesus’ enemies do after He showed them such kindness?

Will our enemies appreciate us if we love them and do good things for them?

Share a story about a time you were kind to your enemy.  Tells us about what happened afterward.

Role Play: Pretend that a co-worker/fellow student lied about you.  Then they came to you wanting help with a fundraiser or needing you as a character reference for a loan/job application (scale the scenario to the age and interests of your participants).  What would you do?  Why?

________________________

Memory Verse:

Proverbs 25:21

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:

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