‘loving your enemies’…real time, real life!

We often hear the words “love your enemies” spoken in christian circles like it is something we share as a common experience. As a christian leader for over 25 years I have seen little evidence of our ability to ‘love our enemies’ on our own…the truth is without the power and grace of God few, if any, of us have the capacity to truly love those who have hurt, betrayed or abandoned us.

We can, on own our strength, maybe crawl our way to forgiveness but our guard remains up and our trust ravaged…To actually ‘love our enemies’ in real-time is one of the ways we truly know we have encountered the living God.

As I was speaking to a community in Vancouver, a couple of months ago, I shared with the group the story of a woman in Denver that a pastor friend had met in a local park. When this woman found out my friend was a pastor she responded with an emotionally charged question…

“Am I going to hell because I am a Lesbian?

This wild story is the back drop to the story I want to share with you here. The details of that story can be found on the blueporch blog under the title “Where is Jesus in this story?”

At the end of the gathering after I shared this story, a woman in her late-twenties came up to me (I had met her before) and said to me “ When you told that story of that women, my story started to make sense to me. I understand more clearly what Jesus was doing in me now.” She asked me if she could tell me her story.

“Yes,” I would be honoured to hear it. She proceeded to share.

“I was brought up in a Holdeman Mennonite community”, she said.

If you know anything about the Holdeman’s (which I knew very little) they are cultish in nature and excommunication is a common practise (shunning) for showing disapproval and the loss of salvation. Excommunication is the only way you can leave the Holdeman’s. When someone is excommunicated they are “shunned” and the family and community follow what they call a ‘biblical’ practise of not eating with them, shaking hands or being business partners.

This young women then began to tell me the story of her life in the Holdeman community.

She said to me , “ I was raped by an elder of the Holdeman community when I was an older teenager, while married to a young man of the Holdeman community.”

She indicated to me that she held this secret for a period of time, until she finally had the courage to tell the pastor about what had happened, believing it was the right thing to do and safe to share with him. (I am not sure what she told her husband). The pastor surprisingly turned on her and had her excommunicated from the community for committing adultery. She was horrified and in shock at the injustice, on top of the injustice, that was now happening to her.

Her husband stayed in the Holdeman community and she was excommunicated from the marriage, as well her immediate family. She lived with rage and anger for several years. Her family continues to “shun” her to this day, although they are now making steps towards what could put them in jeopardy with the Holdeman community.

She is allowed to see her immediate family but she cannot share a family meal with them or be involved financially in anyway with them. (Her family owns a lot of land).

To deal with the pain she had become an out- of – control alcoholic.

She would see the pastor, that excommunicated her, in public places in the city, from time to time, over the last 5 years and would be enraged at the sight of him. She was more angry at the pastor than at the man who raped her in the end.

Just over 2 years ago she encountered Jesus in a whole new way and began letting the seeds of grace grow in her heart. She has been free from addiction to alcohol for 18 months now and has done much soul work. She has a new husband, a one year old child and is pregnant with a 2nd child. I met her daughter and new husband that morning.

“My trade is a chef”, she told me. “I communicate love and kindness through cooking”.

Recently she had been hearing rumors that there were issues in the Holdeman community over the very pastor that excommunicated her. She then heard just weeks ago that this pastor and his wife had been excommunicated from the Holdeman community.

She thought her response to such news would be joy and a sense of justice, but it was not. She was sad, she was moved to compassion for this man, her enemy who had committed injustice against her. Her response surprised her. An idea churned in her heart that compelled her to act. She acted on what was stirring in her and spent the evening cooking an extravagant meal.

“That’s how I show love”, she said to me. “By cooking a meal”.

In the middle of the night she secretly took the meal and placed it on the porch of the home of this excommunicated pastor and his wife. She looked at me stunned at her herself and her actions.

She, like me, was recognizing something bigger had been happening inside of her.

“They didn’t know I was there and I don’t know their response would be, but I know that is what I had to do.”

After listening to her, I stood there in awe for a moment, myself, until I found my words. “ The seeds of grace you had never known as a Holdeman Mennonite have been deposited in you by the life of God in Jesus that is now in you. These seeds are beginning to grow and expand through you to bring life of others.” (even your enemies). I said to her.

I gave her and her husband a big hug as we departed. I left amazed at the love of God at work in a heart.

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on December 14, 2012.

One Response to “‘loving your enemies’…real time, real life!”

  1. There’s no mistaking it, forgiveness coming from God through us, wrecks us…it can make us do the most unexplainable things…

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