This Lent I am praying for my enemies
Enemies. I have always found that word to be strange. Extreme. Something with which I cannot really identify. After all, I am a fortunate, upper middle class, educated white woman who feels safe and well cared for most of the time. With the exception of my gender, I otherwise belong to our culture's dominant and powerful groups. Who am I to have enemies? I am not threatened or mistreated or abused.
So when I would hear Jesus calling for us to love our enemies, I never really got it on a visceral level. Cerebrally, I knew his message was challenging and counterintuitive and unpalatable. It seemed fitting for his followers in the dangerous first century world of oppressive Roman rule or my neighbors on the other side of the world or fellow Americans who are part of minority groups. But it did not seem to apply to me.
As I have gotten older, however, I have become agitated more easily. I thought most people mellowed with age, but such does not seem to be true in my case. Perhaps it has something to do with my social circles or today's incredibly politically charged atmosphere or my increasing realization that our generation's legacy will be no less insidious than that of our ancestors, but I am feeling the sting of Jesus' words now. I have enemies now--not enemies who I think are out to get me, but enemies whom I would prefer to shut up and see things my way, or at least disappear so I never have to contend with them again.
So yes, Jesus was most definitely talking to me. This Lent, I am praying for those people and voices whom I do not like. Some I think I understand, and some I do not, but my work involves more than having conversations and getting to know those who are different. Don't get me wrong, that absolutely is part of the work, but that is head work. There is heart work too. Just as Jesus loves them and see their unique beauty, so, by the grace of God, should I.
This Lent, I will pray for them by name--for their families and friends, for their hurts and aches and pains, for their dreams, for their joys, for their fears. And, equally important, I will pray for my own heart to expand its notion of love.