Most of us don’t think of ourselves as having enemies. After all, just the word enemy sounds violent coming out of our mouths. But if we stop to think about it, most of us struggle with one or another person in our lives, at least from time to time.
We live in an era where grudges are powerful and forgiveness is scant. It takes being The Bigger Person to be able to forgive someone who has wronged us. But honestly, those who hold grudges carry the heavier burden. As someone has said, carrying a grudge is like letting someone live in your head rent-free. You’re the one who suffers when you hold a grudge, not the other person.
The Psalms say a lot about enemies, because in Old Testament culture, enemies were a reality of the political climate. Most disputes were over land, which is a sacred thing in middle eastern culture. King David, as the ‘head politician’ over the land God had given to his people, had to pay attention to his territory, and therefore, to his enemies.
A friend of mine pointed out to me this week that in Psalm 35, King David says something pretty radical about his enemies. In Psalm 35.13 (NLT), he says, “…when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them….”
Let that sink in for a minute.
David grieved for his enemies when they were sick. He fasted for them.
Usually, when we deny ourselves something, we hope to be the beneficiaries of it. David, the man after God’s own heart, denied himself for the benefit of others. And not just others, his enemies – the people whose heart’s desires were for the ruin of God’s people and the desolation of their land.
We might not have what we’d call enemies. But we might have people we don’t like very much. Can we grieve for them when they are sick? Can we fast for their benefit?
It seems radical, and it is. It seems counter-cultural, and it definitely is. But imagine how the world would change if all of us did it.