Thanksgiving is a season to love - our friends and family, as well as our enemies. Susie Grade shows us how to move to a better space.
A Space Beyond Enemies
By Susie Grade
I’m 45 years old and raising a family of my own, but I seem to revert to my 15-year-old self when my family of origin starts discussing hot button issues in our world today. We used to be so civil with each other and prided ourselves in debating and dialoguing effectively about differences. However in the last few years, I’ve noticed our tone has changed. I’ve noticed it is harder for me to dialogue around differences with my family. It seems we are all breathing in divisive air everyday and it is hard not to be influenced by the angry sound bites, polarizing rhetoric, and one-sided echo chambers of our hyped-up media world. As much as I try to breathe deep and keep adulting, I find myself slipping into a space that is not my best self. I was sad but not surprised when I recently learned that 1 in 6 Americans has stopped talking to a friend or relative in the last four years because of political differences. (1)
Rumi once said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” I wonder if that field is a space beyond the enemy-making machine of our world? Jesus's heart is revealed in one glorious, challenging contrast in Scripture: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies..." (Matthew 5:43-44)
Who is my enemy personally, professionally, or politically? What does it mean to love my enemy as Christ taught?
I was inspired by this picture I saw in the Wall Street Journal the week before the election. It is the story of two neighbors, who are voting differently and who have forged a friendship despite their differences. They each put a sign in their yard, one for Trump and one for Biden. Then, they made their own signs with arrows pointing to each other that said, “We *heart* Them” They have carved out a space beyond enemies where kindness and respect wins.
This is Jesus' heart toward us: while we were still God's enemies, he loved us and came to our rescue. That core truth at the heart of the gospel should change everything about how we relate to one another, inside and outside the community of faith.
Dallas Willard said that the mark of spiritual maturity is spontaneous love for my enemy. Spontaneous love! There are many things that are spontaneous in me: spontaneous disdain, contempt, disgust, sarcasm, and rebuttals. But spontaneous love? For my enemy? Our work life, our home life, our church life, even our politics should be radically shaped by Jesus' call to move beyond making enemies into a life of "doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
I do not think the gospel calls us to be apathetic, avoidant, or a-political. God loves this world, engages in it, and is redeeming and restoring all the things (personally and systemically) that have been broken by sin and shame. We are invited to participate with God in the restoration of all things. How might we show up for each other, especially our enemies, with the fruit of God’s spirit as the mark of all we say and do rather than the hostility that seems to be shouting out every day, everywhere?
May a space beyond enemies mark your relationships, especially as you head into the holidays (whether you are physically gathered or sharing zoom family time). May we all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry with one another - especially our enemies – in these days.
Susie Grade is co-pastor of Platt Park Church, Denver, Colorado, along with her husband, Tim Grade. Second to just being loved by God, she is a mom, pastor and business owner and pretty much addicted to time in the mountains with people she loves. She studied the Bible at Ravencrest Chalet in Estes Park, has a degree from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and a Masters in Leadership at Denver Seminary. She loves reading entrepreneurial books, leadership books, spiritual formation books, and George MacDonald fairy tales, but most of all she loves love co-creating environments where people can encounter God and re-connect with Christ.