Love your enemies.

Who is my enemy?

It’s easy to adopt the familiar us-versus-them distinctions, especially if we spend most of our time with people who are similar to us.   It’s tempting to lump outsiders together under negative stereotypes and think,  “They are nothing like me.”

But try an experiment.

Imagine you are at a large party with a wide variety of people.   The host asks guests to sort themselves into two groups:  blue eyes or brown.   As soon as they do, the host asks everyone to re-sort themselves differently.   Men are now asked to separate from women.   Then they reshuffle and separate visual from auditory learners.   Then single from married.   Then those who prefer summer versus winter.   Then athletes or spectators.   If the game goes on long enough, you’ll find yourself paired eventually with every person in the room.

We’re all different.

And we’re all equally loved and treasured by our heavenly Father.   So the next time you encounter someone who seems very different from yourself, don’t think of him as a “stranger” or, much worse, an “enemy.”   Instead, see him as a friend you haven’t yet gotten to know.   Then try to discover as much common ground with him as possible.   That’s always the first step in learning to love.

Where do we find common ground?

It starts deep within us, with how we are made.   We are all created in the image and likeness of God.   We are all his children.   We are all sinners who fall short of God’s purposes.   We all have the same basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, education, and love.   Even apart from these common features, we share many similarities with many people—if we dig deep enough.

Once you have identified these similarities and others, you can take the next step:  look for some of that person’s unique qualities.   He probably has his own story of heroic generosity and virtue.   She may well be bearing an unseen cross with quiet faith and trust.   Because everyone bears the image of God, everyone can reveal a facet of God’s nature that you never have encountered.

So are we the same?   Or are we different?   We are both.   And that’s exactly how God wants it.

word among us