My Enemy, My Brother
My Enemy, My Brother
by Lonnie Lane
You may have heard the expression, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” but through Yeshua, both my friend and my enemy can become my brother. Such is the miracle of becoming “one” in Messiah. I had occasion to call an old friend recently, a Syrian believer in Yeshua, with whom I hadn’t spoken in years. He greeted me immediately when he heard my voice with the words, “Lonnie! I love you.” I had no doubt he genuinely meant it. I love him too. If it weren’t for the Lord, there is no question that there would be no love between us, a Jew and a Syrian. We call him Gus though it is not his real Arabic name. We met Gus when he and my brother were both asked to sing some of their own worship songs at an event when Israel was in a critical war with Syria. (When is she not?) Those who put on the event thought it would be meaningful for a Jew and an Arab to both participate in worship of the Lord. From that day we became friends.
As I listened to how these two were no longer enemies, because they each belonged to the Lord, I marveled that only Yeshua could have done this.
Fast forward to another event in which we introduced Gus to our dear friend Igal, an Israeli believer who is now with the Lord. A small number of us had dinner together and as we talked we found out that Igal and Gus were both in the army on the Golan Heights several years before, only on opposing sides. Igal was in the Israeli army (IDF) and Gus in the Syrian army, each stationed on either side of the war. They were within a short distance of one another, guns pointed in the direction of each other. As I listened to how these two were no longer enemies, because they each belonged to the Lord, I marveled that only Yeshua could have done this. A short time later, Gus came to church with us. He was going back into Syria to bring the Gospel at threat of his life and we were going to send him with prayer. Before we prayed for him, Gus and Igal came before the congregation and stood before us arm-in-arm declaring their brotherly love for one another in the Lord. I recall Igal saying about his holocaust-surviving now-Israeli parents, “My family would stop speaking to me if they knew I had befriended a Syrian.” Gus’ situation would have had more serious repercussions. “If my people knew I ate a meal with you and that I had hugged you, they would cut off my hands, or do something similar to me.” However, here they were, standing together with no animosity whatsoever. They had only praise to God for how only in Yeshua could those barriers of fear and hatred be overcome, and how these two soldier-enemies had become brothers in the Lord.
This past week my human rights activist friend came to visit again. I told of a past visit in a previous article entitled, Having The Heart of a Rescuer. Though I did not identify him by name, this “rescuer” is Majed El Shafie. I met Majed El Shafie when he was one of Sid’s guests on an It’s Supernatural TV show. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s worth watching. Majed is an Egyptian who was severely persecuted for becoming a Christian (at age 18) and was actually crucified for his faith and lived to tell about it. I was producing Sid’s shows at the time of Majed’s interview so I was at the dinner the night before the shoot (taping of the show) when he told us some of his story, including that his family had entirely disowned him when he became a Christian. I mentioned at some point that what he needed now was a Jewish mother. He responded with a similar jest by asking me if I would be his Jewish mother. Sure, I said. I’m really not sure how it unfolded from there but somehow I’ve been his Jewish mother ever since. He has become a part of my family, and calls me Mother. My daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren all love him and he’s become one of us. He comes to visit periodically, was here to celebrate Rosh Hashana with us this year, and now he was just here again this past week. It has to be a God-thing – the Egyptian and the Jews in the same family.
His is the only human rights organization that works to insure the rights of both Christians and Messianic Jews whose rights are being abused. You could say he’s a “one new man” rights activist. Though he speaks often in churches and secular venues to share the work he is doing in countries where minority persecution is rampant, and in some countries, even the norm, mostly against Christians, last night we team-taught a message on forgiveness in my home church. Now I don’t even begin to presume that I have had to come to a level of forgiveness that a man who has endured such torture has. But we each have our own experiences and challenges in being conformed to the image of Messiah. We each have our own forgiveness battles. Majed spoke of four areas in which we must forgive as the Lord’s followers: 1) forgiveness of our enemies; 2) forgiveness of our brothers and sisters in the Lord; 3) forgiveness of ourselves; and 4) forgiveness of God. He admitted that it took him a few years to forgive his enemies. A man who was tortured and crucified (this word literally means cross-afied) knows what it is to have enemies. He also knows experientially something of what it cost the Lord to purchase forgiveness for us by His own blood, and by his own suffering and death.
Preaching the Gospel, and living it out so that it changes lives can only be done under the anointing of God and by His power.
Only through Yeshua can we truly forgive our enemies. Only He gives us the power to do so. Had Majed not forgiven his enemies, he told us, he would not be able to preach the gospel. Preaching the Gospel, and living it out so that it changes lives can only be done under the anointing of God and by His power. Had he not forgiven his enemies, the Lord would not be with him so powerfully so as to enable him to so successfully come to the aid and rescue of over 300 “cases” of persecuted persons. He knows it is all accomplished by God’s grace, including the protection God provides for him. I have no doubt angels surround him at all times. Step out for God as He directs and we can be sure we don’t go alone – He is with us, and so are His angels. Reassuring, isn’t it? Cause to step out more for God, knowing He will speak through us.
Because Yeshua endured and forgave even those who tortured and crucified Him, you and I can be free of the greater torment of the eternal consequences of our sin. Because of the forgiveness He modeled for us, we can know that there is no sin, shame, harm, or horror that we might go through that is beyond the forgiveness that Yeshua offers to us, and that He calls us to offer to others. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven by the power of God. But is it hard to do? Sometimes it seems next to impossible. Sometimes everything inside of us cries out against injustice and we want revenge. But revenge is sweet only for a short time and then we are again tormented because it didn’t bring the release we thought it would. Only the forgiveness of Yeshua can do that.
Some of the hardest things to understand are those pains we experience from our own brothers and sisters in the Lord. Majed asked who in the audience has ever been hurt by someone in the Body of Messiah. Almost every hand went up. I know for myself that the most painful and difficult time in my life was congregation related. God had already been teaching me about forgiveness on another level. I didn’t know that those lessons were going to become what now seems like a life-message. I had already learned to forgive on several levels. So I was perplexed when I couldn’t get free, even though I had forgiven over and over again those who had hurt me. It was not until a pastor friend had a word of knowledge for me that I was able to get free. He said, “Lonnie, I see you with a piece of paper in your hand and on it you wrote, ‘But I was right!’” It was true that I had forgiven those whom I saw as greatly misunderstanding and misrepresenting me. It was true that I had released it as best I could to God. I looked to the Lord for His vindication. But I had done that thinking I was offering them what they didn’t deserve. I was magnanimously offering them my forgiveness but in my heart of hearts I still labeled them as the guilty ones. I had to let go of the right to be right in order to be free. After all, only Yeshua really is right, right? We really don’t see what’s in our own hearts. The amazing thing is, He does, and still forgives and loves us. If we’re listening to the Spirit of God within us, we know this to be true, and we know when we’re not walking in love. Our peace departs. God has a way of getting His point across. “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thes. 4:9). We cannot live in His peace unless we are at peace with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Here’s the admonition: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). In fact, loving one another carries the weight and authority of the commandments Moses brought back down the mountain from God to Israel: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).
We all want to be thought well of, but our worst critics are often ourselves.
Forgiving ourselves can sometimes be the most difficult because we’re so in touch with our own pain and failure. We can escape another person’s weakness, sin and failures. They aren’t with us every moment of the day, but we are with ourselves always. Try as we might we can’t really escape ourselves. “How could I be so stupid?” “I can’t believe I did that!” “Why did I let that happen to me?” These questions of “the predicament of the knowledge of good and evil” goes on in our heads continually if we allow them to. Guess where they come from? They don’t really come from us and they certainly don’t come from God. They come from “The Accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). If you belong to Yeshua, you are one of His “brethren” – and we fight a battle against accusations – against others and against ourselves. We all want to be thought well of, but our worst critics are often ourselves. We must guard against this.
God had been saying from the beginning when He told Israel, “You shall love your neighbor as (you love) yourself; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18 my addition). Did you ever stop to think of what God really meant by that? As much as you would like to be liked, loved, admired, respected, honored, listened to, and cared for – so extend those qualities to those who live within range of your life. Neighbors can be people pretty much like yourself, but what about those who you don’t relate to at all? Like the Israeli and the Arab, for instance. About them, God had to say, ‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (19:34). Ignore the differences; they cause division. Focus on what you do share alike, loving the differences. As Majed pointed out, why be threatened or reject the differences between us and others. Instead, embrace them as those aspects that complete us in the fullness of Messiah Yeshua. When you love your neighbor as you love yourself, you’re not threatened by what is not like you. If you don’t love yourself, though, how are you likely to love others with God’s kind of love? God makes love the priority for all relationships, including with ourselves. When Yeshua was asked, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?” He answered, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.” Then he want on to add, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as (you love) yourself.’” Matthew 22:36- 39) We’re so familiar with these words that it is possible to miss how revolutionary they are. They are so profound that, “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (:40). What could be more important then? When we have forgiven ourselves where we need to and have accepted ourselves and love ourselves, then we will be free to love God and to receive His love, and to be someone whom He loves others through.
What about those of us who need to forgive God? Does that sound like blaspheme to you? What? Forgive God? What could He do wrong? Nothing. Ever. But sometimes we want to know why something is as it is in our lives? Why pain, why rejection, why sickness, why loss, why rejection? For that matter, what about persecution? Abuse? Torture? One wonders why does God allow evil to exist at all? These are plaguing questions. We don’t always know the why of things? But we can know that God is good. Yeshua showed us the unselfish sacrificial love of God, being “the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). He revealed God to us through the miracles of healing and deliverance, and raising loved ones from the dead. And He ultimately submitted Himself to the worst that mankind experiences or perpetrates against one another when there is an absence of God’s love.
There is no heavier yoke than that of unforgiveness.
While we may not understand the wisdom of God – and if it’s God’s doing, it has to be from a place of divine wisdom – of allowing suffering and evil, but we can know that there is nothing that we suffer that God Himself in Yeshua didn’t also subject Himself to. He submitted to evil in order to overcome it’s power over us. He faced the fear of it so that we could be released from the fear of it in Him! So only “in Him” can we see through His eyes of compassion and humility to forgive, no matter whether for our enemies, our brothers and sisters in the Lord, or even for ourselves. He died to remove the power of The Accuser from his influence over us. There is no heavier yoke than that of unforgiveness. Only through Him can we be that kind of free and forgiving. But thank God, we do have access to His forgiveness. “It was for freedom that Messiah set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery”(Gal 5:1). When we walk in that freedom, with nothing blocking the flow of God’s love and power through us, others will be drawn to the freedom they see in us and seek His forgiveness for themselves. And once they receive His forgiveness and become His, they too will forgive those who have harmed them, which is how the Kingdom of God has been expanding for some-2000 years. As we receive the love and forgiveness of the Lord, our enemies become our brothers and sisters as they come to Him, and even when they don’t, or haven’t yet, we can view them with the same love and compassion which the Lord had for us. Even before we were His, God demonstrate(d) His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us” (Romans 5:8). And in His dying, He forgave us. And so much we being His representative now as much as He was His Father’s representative.
So in these days when, should we be close to the end of days, when the love of many will grow cold (See Matthew 24:12), should that happen, forgiveness is not something that will take place readily or even at all for many people. I for one believe that the supernatural glory of God will be manifest through those who have forgiving hearts and hold no ought against any. It would be wisdom for us to settle now that we will choose to forgive any who give us cause to forgive them. “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions” (Mark 11:35,36) If ever here was an incentive, that was it right there! Only as we forgive, will we be forgiven by Father God. And Lord knows, we want to be in His presence – forever!
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Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.