I took a couple months off of the series “Values that My Culture Taught Me.” This post continues it. If you are new to the series, I’d appreciate if you would take a few minutes to read my preface and purpose here first and while you are at it, read the first article here, the second here, the third here, and the fourth here. (This is getting ridiculous.)
The painting hung on the little piece of wall between the hall into the high school wing and the staff room. I’d see it as I rushed out of the bathroom, pigtails swinging, hands clean for lunch. It told a story that I knew before I ever went to school. “Whosoever shall lose his life for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”
The painting’s colours were muted, earthy.
In the foreground, a man with brown beard, hat, and clothes reached out his hands to another man. This one wore deep red. Water dripped from his hands as he held them above the splintered edge of the hole he’d made, falling through the ice. Much of the background was white and blue, except for a windmill, a village, and a church. Three men on the shore, gestured angrily.
I knew the parts of the story the painting couldn’t tell. I knew the man in brown was a fleeing Anabaptist named Dirk Willems. I knew the man in red ran across the ice to capture him. I knew that Dirk Willems helped his enemy that day.
It would have been nice to know that Dirk’s pursuers rewarded him by allowing him to go free, but that’s not the story. Instead, they captured him, put him in prison, and eventually executed him for heresy against the Christian church.
The irony: Dirk Willems was more Christ-like than any of his pursuers. He took seriously the words of Christ:
Nonresistance, loving your enemies, is supposed to be a trademark of Anabaptism. It’s how the Amish in Nickle Mines could offer forgiveness to the man who shot their daughters.
While we still teach non-resistance in our churches and don’t fight in wars, we may be losing this practice in daily life. A friend of mine challenged me recently, “Have you actually seen someone loving their enemies?” I’ve been pondering this for weeks.
This autumn, after reading the story of the Good Samaritan, I asked my students to answer the question: “Who is my enemy?” I expected them to list people like terrorists and Communists. Instead, they wrote down names of people they knew, people they sit next to in school. They taught me something. Maybe I fail to love my enemies, because I fail to admit I have enemies.
We aren’t supposed to dislike anybody or even admit that someone gets under out skin. We’re supposed to be nice. This is not all wrong.
However, I wonder how it would change me if:
Maybe I actually have seen people loving their enemies. I just didn’t recognize it, because they did all their confessions in private and all their loving looked like ordinary kindness.
What about you? Have you seen someone loving their enemies? What has loving your enemies required of you? Let us know in the comments below.
Next month, around March 14, I plan to look at the two Kingdom concept, the theology behind loving our enemies, not going to war, not voting, etc. Do have any Bible verses or passages you think should be included?
 The Holy Bible, v. Matthew 5:44.