The title of this blog is the email title that I received from Blake Guichet, someone that I follow on social media. It made me stop and read her email. The quote comes from Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life”.
As believers, we have a desire to live in peace with the people around us and struggle when difficulties arise with individuals. I think that Hebrews 12:14 is a scripture that echoes in our minds, it says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” The truth is that the bible is filled with examples of enemies coming against God’s people, and in just a few days we have an example of that with Chanukah. Israel was being oppressed by the Greek-Syrians, and was not allowed to read from the Torah; the temple was defiled; shabbat and all of the feasts were outlawed, as well as circumcision of their sons. In other words, Judaism was being abolished, and the Jewish people were being made to convert to idol worship. The Jewish people took a stand, and the Maccabean revolt recognized and fought their enemy. Just like Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life”. The Jewish people stood their ground and even though they were the underdog they persevered and saved Judaism.
Chanukah demonstrates how sometimes we all have to take a stand and fight. Throughout the history of the Jewish people, over and over again, enemies have come against the people of Israel. One of my favorite portions in the Passover Haggadah (Deluxe Edition of the Maxwell House Haggadah) is, “And it is that promise which has been the support of our ancestors and of ourselves, for not one only has risen up against us, but in every generation some have arisen against us to annihilate us, but the Most Holy, blessed be He, always delivered us out of their hands”. Jewish people have learned from their history that there will always be enemies that will arise, God will deliver us, and we need to comprehend this concept in our walk with God.
How does the concept of enemies translate in our daily lives? Enemies can arise from within our family, our friends, our spiritual family, our work place and within our community. The way to deal with our enemies is outlined in Luke 6:27-28, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” These two verses are so very difficult when we are dealing with a personal situation. When someone arises against us, our initial reaction is to lash out at them and to hurt them as they have hurt us but, that’s not the way God works. He wants us to love our enemies, do good to our enemies, bless those who curse us and to pray for those who abuse us. When we commit to do this course of action, it doesn’t mean that we need to continue a relationship with them. Sometimes we need to sever relationships that are toxic to us and to continue the plan of action from afar. God is able, more than able, to hear our prayers for our “enemy”. One thing that I can tell you is that it is extremely difficult to pray for someone for any length of time and hate them in your heart. God will give you insight into your “enemy”, empathy, compassion and a desire for them to have peace and joy.
This year, as we light our candles for Chanukah, let’s remember to be brave, to take a stand when it’s important, to put God first in all things, and to remember those who have come against us. Let us not allow anger and bitterness to create impurities in our oil, so that our light cannot shine brightly.