Was there ever a time when you had to choose to love an enemy?
In 1970 I was beaten and tortured in the Rankin County, Mississippi, jail. I had traveled there to help 19 students who’d been arrested for protesting peacefully and was locked up myself. All that long night, I saw evil. The policemen hurting me looked evil. They behaved evil. But I saw myself clearly as well and knew the same evil was somewhere within me.
I also knew the gospel was the only thing that could burn through my anger, my ambition, my blackness. I wanted to preach a gospel that brought black and white, Jews and Gentiles, together in one body. That experience in a Mississippi jail showed me there is no way forward unless we forgive. The only thing that brings about reconciliation or heals any kind of broken relationship is the forgiving grace of God. This is not a cakewalk by any means. It ain’t health, wealth, and prosperity all the time. Pain and suffering are part of the process, too.
—John M. Perkins, Civil Rights Activist, Founder and President Emeritus of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation, and author of Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win
One example that comes to mind is of an individual that consistently gossiped about me. It was difficult to love and forgive her. In order to walk into the calling the Lord has placed on my life, I must choose love over hate, forgiveness over bitterness, and prayer over contempt. These choices have not always been easy, and they do not erase the past. But the Holy Spirit graciously empowers me to move toward life and victory. Today I can view my past “enemy” in a new light—as a hurting human being who acted out of her own pain.
Any time we are presented with human enemies, we have an opportunity to remember the truth: We are not wrestling with humans, period. Our fight is against the big “E” enemy, whose sole aim is to kill, rob, and destroy us. When adversaries are in front of us, let us dear children of the King stay stubbornly focused on Jesus.
—Andrea Ramirez, Executive Director for the Faith and Education Coalition—NHCLC (National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference)
Tom Tancredo, a former US congressman from Colorado, ran for governor a few years back. While Tom and I have a few things in common, we are polar opposites on immigration.
At the prompting of a friend, we started up a series of meetings to help see humanity in the other. Although productive, they often felt fraught. But at our third meeting, things shifted. At one point I was so frustrated with him that I said, “Tom, I think God has you in relationships with people like me to challenge you.” He chuckled and said, “I agree, but I think that is why God has me in relationship with you too.” How right he was!
This is one example of why working to build bridges between people can help create change. Our humanity fears “the other” and erects walls both literal and figurative so we don’t have to listen, respect, or learn. But we need to. These conversations show us how.
—Michelle Ferrigno Warren, Advocacy and Strategic Engagement Director for the Christian Community Development Association and author of The Power of Proximity
There have been a few seasons in life when we’ve had to make the conscious decision to crucify our flesh and love our enemies. The biblical motivation the Holy Spirit prompted our hearts with was Romans 12:9-21. When we took our pain to the Lord, He provided us the strength necessary to forgive the ones who sought to injure us, all the while convicting us to work with diligence to not harm others in a similar way.
—D. A. and Elicia Horton, Authors of Enter the Ring: Fighting Together for a Gospel-Saturated Marriage
Illustration by Nick Misani