Go back to normal view
It goes to the heart of compassion and empathy. It sounds simple; and yet is anything but easy.
We’ve possibly heard of stories of imaginative engagement and generosity: first World War soldiers playing football in no man’s land; victims forgiving their persecutors in South Africa, and the like. These are startling, impressive, and may feel utterly out of reach. But the movement I am describing has a much humbler place in the experience of each one of us.
We don’t need to confine the word ‘enemy’ as to someone you go to war against. The recognition invited of us is that ‘enemy’ is simply someone we choose to draw back from; to shy away from; to ignore; who we fear might disadvantage us, or discredit us; someone whose values we disdain; someone with whom we are angry; or to whom we could not say, in earnest, ‘peace be with you’; someone against whom we have raised barricades of heart or mind; someone from whom we have decided to keep our distance; and not to speak, or smile, or share bread.
And when we talk of ‘guest’ or ‘hosts’, it doesn’t need of us to bring that person under our roof. This ‘hosting’ is a powerful metaphor. It is about the simpler matters, of greeting, meeting the eye, acknowledging, offering warmth, respect, patience. It is about allowing that person an environment in which they may flourish, know peace, be encouraged, and in turn have the opportunity to show such small expressions of kindness to others.
Will we make ‘guests’ of one another? Will we recognise our calling to do just that? Will we accept that to ignore, or neglect, or draw circles of barbed wire around our hearts, is not an option .. if we are to deepen our lives in the ways of Christ?
November is the month of remembrance. Calling to mind, that which has been: both good and bad. It is also the opportunity in such light, to opt to learn and be shaped by ways of peace and fellowship. To allow that ‘enemy’ to become our ‘welcome guest’.
* as suggested by Henry Nouwen in his beautiful timeless book, ‘Reaching Out’ (1976)