But love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Luke 6:35
The sweet aroma of citrus blossoms waifts into our truck as we drive through Dinuba, past acres of orange groves. It’s a smell that brings us twenty years into our past when we lived in Redlands, CA–a town steeped in a rich citrus heritage. I’m sure that if smells could heal, sickness would be abolished in the Central Valley of California each spring.
On Monday morning, much of the routine we remember repeats itself with predictable precision: morning devotions, bountiful meals, and fulfilling work. However, this time around holds the bonus of familiar faces and friendships that were forged on our first visit that we now get to build upon.
As the week begins we delve into the tasks at hand: processing walnuts and dried persimmons, making quilts and cleaning bathrooms. Energy is high and sleep comes easily each evening.
We gather around a truckload of food ready to depart, prayers of provision and protection encircling the group. I’m overwhelmed with the realization that God lets us partner with Him in the work He does. Not only that, but He multiplies our efforts beyond anything we can ever accomplish on our own. God allows us to be involved in His work, not because He can’t do it alone, but perhaps because He desires for us to be as invested in the restorative work of His creation as He is.
I get more glimpses of this mission of restoration as international partners of Gleanings for the Hungry come to share stories of the work that is being done globally to feed the hungry, free slaves, bring medical aid, and love enemies.
ANONYMOUS ALLEGIANCE TO LOVE
That last line item cuts to the marrow of the mission. Loving enemies is a theme poignantly placed throughout the gospels, but is it practical?
Our hearts are wrecked as a Jewish woman from Isreal shares the raw details of her undercover mission to minister to people in neighboring countries. Going where governments won’t allow entrance and risking everything to help people forgotten by the rest of the world, her organization brings practical help that is desperately needed. Displaced people groups, trafficked women, and amputees are just a few of those receiving care.
While this all sounds noble and upright, can I uncover an arresting detail? Because of the sensitive nature of their work, anonymity is paramount. Therefore, the people they are serving don’t realize that their help is literally coming from their religious enemies. Revealing this truth would compromise their entire ability to help.
I’m left asking myself, if any love that I could offer would be done without revealing my true identity, would that change the position of my heart? How often is my love tied to selfish motives? Lord, help me to have a clean heart before you.
A HAND OF FRIENDSHIP
As if that challenge wasn’t enough, during our morning devotions I was reduced to rubble by this story of imprisonment, torture and an offer of friendship extended from the captive to his torturer. While you are invited to enjoy this video in its entirety, the heart of the story I wish to share begins at 39 minutes and ends around 46 minutes.
The image of Dan’s hand–vulnerably extended and waiting–reduced me to tears. This is the image of the gospel–an offer of love from the Creator of the world extended to His hardened creation–expectant and willing, ready and waiting.
Each one of us has a chance to embrace this extended hand. Choosing to grasp it simultaneously releases us from the grip of our past and positions us with a new opportunity: to extend this same grace and forgiveness to those around us.
Receiving forgiveness feels a whole lot nicer than offering it to those who have wronged us. However, it is in this act of setting others free that we truly find freedom.
Is it easy? Never.
Is it always possible? I believe so.
Every time I get hung up on the difficulty of the task, I draw strength from the stories of others who have gone before me.
THEY WENT FIRST
If Joseph could forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery…
If Jesus could forgive the ones who placed Him on the cross…
If Corrie Ten Boom could forgive the men who tortured her during the Holocaust…
If Dan Baumann could extend a hand of friendship to the man who tortured him in prison…
If a Jewish woman in Israel can minister to her enemies…
If Jesus can forgive all my sins…
Then, extending forgiveness and loving my enemies is able to become a theme woven into the fabric of my being as we partner with God in the work that He does, which in its simplest form, is forgiving and loving others.
I have a hunch that you will find this free resource on the 7 steps to forgiveness useful. Our family has been implementing these steps and have found it to be a really helpful guide.
My friend and fellow writer, Madison, also wrote on the topic of loving your enemies; you can check it out here.
Lastly, if the idea of serving as a family intrigues you, I invite you to look over this list of family and RV-friendly service oppertunities that we’ve discovered around the US!