Eric Youngblood: A Rarely Reported Nastiness About Getting Older

Saturday, October 13, 2018 - by Eric Youngblood

I wonder if America, not Cassandra W. America your cube-mate at work, but ‘Merica, our confused and privileged nation, knows that a central feature of Christian teaching and doctrine is the love of enemies?

--That our whole doctrine of salvation falls to the ground with a loud thud without it?

--That our witness in the world is just shrill propaganda when it is not present?

One of the benefits of aging (and there are probably only about 2-3 such benefits) is the acquisition of enemies without even trying!

Sometimes you earn them by bad behavior. Of course, at times, you simply attract them through interactions. And, they can even emerge when you are trying to help!

That’s Not Too Hard

As a much younger man, I found nothing at all scandalous about Jesus’ command “to love your enemies and to bless those who curse you.”

But it turns out that was not because I was possessed of such uber-spirituality. It was rather, because I had a charmed existence. I hadn’t actually been cursed yet, nor had I been given the torturous gift of having someone actually hate me, not want me, or badly misunderstand me.

The passage of time and plenteous practice in the treachery of human relations fulfills these deficits soon enough though! If you live long enough you will be sure to have some folks who simply do not like you and may even come to reckon you their outright enemy.

That being so, I wanted to share an instructive prayer which seems a fitting tutorial for a lesson that doesn’t reside as indigenous in most of us. It must be learned.

This moving, formational prayer was composed by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich who “was a Serbian bishop in the last century who spoke out courageously against Nazism until he was arrested and taken to Dachau.”

With the state of the internet, political discourse, relationships between disparate social groups, and even just the “domestic nastinesses” that continuously emerge in run of the mill family arrangements, this prayer, seems an instructive posture and practice for any of us who are attempting, albeit often badly, to represent our Savior’s concerns on this planet.

We aren’t actually called upon, as Christians, in MOST situations (of course there are exceptions) to fight our enemies....but rather to pray for them and to do them good.

A Prayer for Enemies (wherever we find or make them!)

So here is some practice from a man who encountered much worse enemy-ness than any of us has ever known:

“Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.

They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord, Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to You may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.

Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.”

May we all learn to pray for our enemies, our critics, and even those of whom we are jealous!

And no, I didn’t write this in response to any particular situation in my life...no one has recently attacked me!

It just seems, given the contentiousness of our present public discourse and cultural mood, that it’d do us all some good to recall our call to replicate our Savior who lived and died to bless his enemies....I know, because I was one of them.

------

Contact Eric Youngblood, pastor of Rock Creek Fellowship on Lookout Mountain, at eric@rockcreekfellowship.org


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