I have heard "love your enemies" all my life. I also learned that it was a biblical principle, but I never really believed it was possible. It sounded good, but how hard is it to love someone who appears to be against you?
I experienced a situation that illuminated this passage brighter than I could have imagined. It was one of those "aha!" moments that blew my mind away. The circumstances of the event have been chronicled in a new documentary called This Is What Love in Action Looks Like.
In June 2005 I encountered a group of people protesting the ministry that I led, called Love in Action. The protesters upset my entire world. They shattered the foundation of my life. Their actions brought about huge consequences that were very difficult to overcome. This group was led by a man whom I referred to at the time as my "enemy." Given what he put me through, it appeared that he was trying to destroy my very soul. His name was Morgan Fox, and I didn't like him very much, even though I had never met him face-to-face.
A few months after the main thrust of this attack, Morgan requested a personal meeting with me. I very reluctantly agreed to the meeting, thinking it might get him off my back. With another person at my side for support, I spoke with him in my office for about an hour. I found the conversation quite surprising, because I saw something in this man that I didn't expect: I saw a human being who had a heart and a soul. I had previously thought of him as a man with an agenda. He shared some very vulnerable things about his life, which were surprising to me. His openness was disarming, and we had a good talk.
After this meeting, something deep inside me began so shift. Several months later Morgan attended a ministry meeting I was leading. He was kind and socially friendly. I found it easier to be around him this time, but I was still curious about what he was thinking and why he would come to a Love in Action function and appear to be connected to the group.
After coming to one more event we were hosting, he sent me an email. In it he actually complimented me on aspects of the ministry that were helpful to him. I couldn't go any longer without asking if we could meet one-on-one. I rather enjoyed the first meeting we were able to set, and it became clear that we were building a connection between us that didn't seem so negative. I was growing from my interaction with him. He was teaching me things that were interesting and valuable to me. But I kept our meetings somewhat secret, assuming that many would question why I would want to have coffee with my enemy, the man who'd organized a protest against my organization.
After several more years, he and I were sitting in my office, talking about the events surrounding the protest. I told him I saw him as an enemy, and right then, something blew through my brain like it had come from heaven. The message in the Bible about loving our enemies all of a sudden had pertinence. I looked at Morgan in the middle of my amazing revelation and said, "I can't imagine using the term 'enemy' in describing you anymore. You are my friend."
He smiled and nodded in agreement. I think it might have been a little uncomfortable for him to hear that, but this was his written response the next day: "Hey John. Had a good time yesterday. I am continually excited and feel more and more enriched as more of the evolution of our friendship becomes clear in the ways we've affected one another. So cool!"
I pondered the concept of loving our enemies and found that God had led me through an amazing life lesson. I wondered what would be in store for us if we could learn to love our enemies, and I realized that it would allow us to find new friends who could teach us amazing life lessons.
I started out thinking I was fighting against a man who was leading a group against me. I didn't want to talk to him and wished he would just vacate my life. My relationship with Morgan began with opposite passions regarding homosexuality. At that time, I think each of us had a hidden intent to change the other. But the change I wanted to see in him didn't come about. Morgan didn't fall to his knees and say he was wrong for leading the protest. I did change, though. I was humbled by the way Morgan was able to value me as a person and show me such deep respect, even when we didn't agree.
Today, I really like this guy. He is gracious, kind, thoughtful, and faithful. He is a servant and a giver, and he loves people. He thinks deeply, is intensely creative, loves his family, and follows convictions that resonate with his life values. I have a new name for my "enemy" of yesteryear: Friend.
Although This Is What Love in Action Looks Like is a recorded history of the protest, for me the real message of the film is that two enemies became friends when they were willing to listen to each other. As a result of Morgan Fox entering my life, I've experienced many changes at a very deep level. I feel embarrassed each time I watch the film, but it is a great evaluation of my life and a reminder of whom I used to be -- and never want to be again.
Watch the trailer for This Is What Love in Action Looks Like: