Love Your Enemy

enemies“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

This passage has puzzled me for years! As a child, I lived with my grandparents from age 3-8. My grandfather on my mom’s side was a WWII veteran and the highest decorated enlisted Navy seaman from the state of Florida. Pawpaw or Aubrey as Granny called him when she wanted something, carried the pain of that war his entire life. He was a Chief Petty Officer on the U.S.S. San Francisco and spent his entire time in the Pacific. Being that he did not accept Christ until moments from his death in 1993, his prejudices were in full view of the family. However, with the family he was a hard working man who did whatever he could to provide for his large family.

My three uncles are all veterans of foreign war and served in the Army; my uncle Cecil is a Korean War and Vietnam War veteran, my uncle Robert is a Vietnam veteran, and my uncle Ronny is a Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran. I was not around them enough to know how those deployments impacted them in the area of regard for the enemy but I have read enough to know it probably was not good.

All of my deployments have been to the Middle East and so have those of my two brothers. All of us serving with the Army. Needless to say, prayer for our enemies is not the first thing that comes to mind for anyone in my family.

Jane FondaFor example, recently a Christian website posted on FB a question, “If ISIS killed your child would you pray for them?” My literal and immediate response to their question was, “Yep, while I am on my way to kill them.” In my way of thinking, there are just some things worth going to jail for and that is one of them. Obviously, such a view does not represent the verses above. However, we must be careful not to take passages like this out of the larger context.

Before this moves into a Just War discussion, let me keep us on track. The passage above gives three clear commands: “Love your enemies”, “Pray for those who persecute you”, and “be perfect”. I have realized I struggle over these verses because I do not completely understand the love Jesus is talking about here, nor how to pray for those who persecute me, and I certainly have no idea how to be perfect. A person could spend a life time practicing Matthew 5:43-48, and we should! There is also a lot to be said about what commands are not in the verse but I will save “Reading Between the Lines” for another post.

Before I came to the dark side as a Active Duty Army Chaplain, I was a senior enlisted Chaplain Assistant in the Army Reserves. That year, 1999, I was introduced via work email to a few of the survivors of the Hanoi Hilton, two of them were men who were present when Jane Fonda did the unthinkable. I was brought in on their discussion because the topic was forgiveness and the person who brought me on with them thought I could contribute to the dialogue. After reading their exchanges off and on for about an hour, I noticed that not one of the men on the thread had tried forgiving Jane Fonda. At the same time, it was not on lost me who I was talking with and the fact was there was more going on with these brave men than what Jane Fonda had done. Life would have been a good bit different for them had she not sold them out like she did but some things cannot be undone.

Without hesitation, I spoke into the discussion and voiced my observation that it appeared to me that no one had tried working toward forgiving Jane Fonda. I shared the verses above and:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6:14-15

The bitterness and resentment was so strong in these brave men that they were willing to go to their deaths before they forgave her. They would have rather remained un-forgiven by God than “give in” and forgive her. They literally owned as part of them the repulsiveness they had for her. What they failed to realize even to this day is she has owned them this entire time. There is a spiritual element here that none of us sees. Notice in the first passage, Jesus does not ignore the fact that “evil and good” exist and so do “just and unjust”.

love your enemiesIn today’s society, we deny evil and exploit good and make that which is just unjust. Historically, this always leads to persecution, war and evil regimes. Mankind’s response always looks like war which is justified biblically or at least recognized in Romans 13:1-6, but I will save that for the “Just War” post.

So what does this evil, good, just, and unjust look like? Our best example is found in a few Old Testament passages: 2 Kings 6:8-23, Job 1-6, Daniel 9 and several New Testament passages as well. Here is the primary one that outlines our true battle:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

Therefore, is it possible that we are to forgive because we only see in part? We are not to live as if we are all knowing or all seeing. Doing so makes us less than what God has called us to be and we look like evil dictators in the process. We are to love and pray for those who come against us because life is about the will of God and not ours. All things are moving toward God, who is perfection. As we learn together to follow God in dealing with our enemies and we yield to love, prayer, and perfection; perhaps we will also learn along the way what Jesus meant by, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.