Enemy Lists

"You know he kept an enemy list," he said.

I was talking with another priest over coffee. We were catching up on all things interesting about retired clergy we knew. I'd heard about the rumored enemy list kept by this retired priest and mostly dismissed it to, well, rumor and speculation.

Apparently it was not just rumor. Both of us at coffee that day had been on the enemy list, apparently because we supported full inclusion in the church and the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson. A few bishops here and there were on this list for various reasons. A few powerful lay women and men who had said one thing to this particular priest, but when push came to shove, had not gotten in the proverbial line. Probably a few people were on the list just because.

"We should have gotten t-shirts made to wear: I made the enemy list," I remarked.

Politicians keep enemy lists. J. Edgar Hoover's enemy list is almost a who's who of people who made a change in the world. But priests keeping enemy lists?

That seems rather....human.

Because face it, whether we have an official list written down and kept in a secret place or we have an unofficial list of names committed to memory, we all have enemy lists. We have lists of those people who have challenged us by holding up that mirror that allows us to see our less than lovely selves. We have lists of those people who have betrayed us, sometimes thru very real acts of deception and hurt, other times with acts that are more about our injured pride than real emotional wounding. We have lists of those people who hurt us and didn't apologize. We have lists of those people we just simply don't like or, if we're honest, of whom we are jealous.

And we're also on other people's lists, because we have been that person who ran afoul, who betrayed, who disappointed, and who hurt someone else.

Oh yes, we have lists.

Jesus probably realized enemy lists were a fairly common human thing when he directed us to love our enemies. He implores us in the Gospel of Luke, "But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."

Not much wiggle room in those words. Not at all.

So as we sit in the aftermath of mid-term elections in a country that thrives on adversarial relationships and uses the language of war to determine the victor between political parties, church disagreements, and broken relationships, I wonder how many of us who follow Christ will take these words of his to heart? I wonder how many of us will allow God to transform our enemy lists into prayer lists?

How many of us will take our enemy lists, write them down, and pray for these people by name? How many of us will follow Christ in this act of confession by admitting out loud that we have people we don't like, some for cause and some because we just don't like them? How many of us will allow God to begin the act of reconciliation by praying for them. We don't have to pray that unicorns and rainbows will fill their lives and that the sun will shine on them eternally. God is aware when we're full of hooey in our prayers. We might simply begin by saying the names of our enemies, followed by "Child of God."

See what happens. Maybe one day that person simply becomes a neutral figure in our lives. Maybe one day that person becomes a friend. Who knows?

Jesus doesn't say we have to be best friend forever with our enemies. In fact, some people who have wounded and betrayed us don't need to be invited into that kind of particular relationship with us anymore, yet there is a difference between BFF and neutrality in relationship. There are a few stops between the places of close friend and mortal enemy. And Jesus invites us to explore those places in our prayers and attitudes towards those who have hurt us, who have cursed us, and who have abused us. When people cease being enemies, we begin to see them a children of God, deserving of dignity, respect, and love.  If nothing else, it may make political ads more kind.

In a world filled with so much strife and discord, so many enemy lists, I think Jesus was on to something when he asked us to reframe our enemy lists as a prayer list. Perhaps it's time we practiced what Jesus preached.


Swanssi said…
Your post made me think about the three people on my "List", one of whom has passed on. I have discovered that I am no longer violently angry with them, but can actually be in a room with them and not be upset. I have taken your advise and begun to pray for them in a simple way. It has helped.

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