Love Your Enemies
Last year I got a few shirts printed with the words “Love your enemies” on the front and, “You have heard it said, ‘love your neighbor, and hate your enemy’ but I tell you Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. ~ Jesus Christ” on the back.
I’ve been wearing it around off and on for over a year. For many I come in contact with, it’s the first time they’ve read the words of Jesus in their lives.
It has been so fun seeing people’s reactions when I wear this shirt. I got about 20 of these shirts printed, so I also have given them as gifts to friends, so it’s been awesome hearing stories from friends who have worn it, too!
The idea of loving our enemies is really a foreign one to any culture, but it is especially foreign to Islam. So, the way people react to the shirt has been a cool way to gauge whether someone is hungry to know more about Jesus’ message.
A great example of this for me happened about 3 weeks ago. I was at a coffee shop with a friend, where we had met to pray and chat together. The barista who took our order noticed my shirt. She asked, “Why should I love my enemies?”
I said, “Great question! Here’s why! 😁” And then turned around so she could see the back of it.
She read it, nodded her head, said “Hmm, interesting…” and then finished taking our order.
I didn’t think much of it.
Hanging out and Loving Jesus
My friend and I sat down with our coffees, and started chatting. We hung out, did a little impromptu study on John 15 (Where Jesus tells us to abide in Him to bear fruit) and prayed together for about an hour before he had to go. I had homework to do, so when he left I pulled out my laptop and started getting into my reading.
It was super quiet in the coffee shop at that time. There were a couple customers sitting outside, but I was the only one sitting inside.
From the counter, the barista who commented on my “Love Your Enemies” shirt asked me where I was from.
I told her I was Canadian, but that I’ve lived here almost 7 years.
She asked me what I did for work, and I told her I was a student, but that I also do freelance web-development, and that I teach the Bible.
She replied, “Really? That’s cool! What can you tell me about the Bible?”
I said, “haha, uh, well… what do you want to know?”
She explained, “Well, I was raised as a Muslim. My family is very religious and very conservative. But just over a year ago I realized that all I’ve ever seen of any religion is hypocrisy. People who told me Allah wanted me to not commit adultery were sleeping around with whoever they wanted. People would tell me Allah didn’t want me to lie, but they went around lying whenever it was convenient to them. People would tell me that God made both men and women, but would justify it when a man abused or raped a woman.
“I couldn’t reconcile the hypocrisy I saw in Islam… so I left. I still believe there is a God, and I want to learn about Him. But I don’t believe He’s the God Islam teaches of. So, I’ve started researching what other religions say about God. You’re the first Christian I’ve ever met, so I’d love to here what you have to say about Christianity. I especially want to know about what Christianity says about women.”
So, we talked about that. I shared about how Jesus cared for and valued women completely and fully. Far beyond what the culture and religious leaders of the day saw reasonable. We talked about the Woman at the Well in John 4 and the Woman Caught in Adultery in John 8. We also talked about how much Jesus also hated the hypocrisy in the religious leaders of His day, in the same way that she had come to despise hypocrisy in Islam.
We ended up talking for about an hour. Part way through, she said, “This is really amazing; Do you know, is the Bible available in my language? I’ve researched a bunch of religions on this journey, but you’re the first person I’ve heard from who talks like this is something really true and inside you. I want to read your book and learn more!”
“Of course!” I replied. “I’ll bring you one tomorrow!”
Not so Random After All
As we talked more, it became really apparent that Jesus has actually been drawing her to Himself for a while!
She shared that, for a while now, she’s been listening to recordings of Russian Christian prayer/worship services at night, because they “make her feel peace“, and that peace was helping her sleep. She also found a cross necklace a few months ago that she’d been wearing around occasionally, because it “just felt right“.
I told her, “This might sound a bit biased… But from what you said, it really sounds like Jesus is drawing you to himself! The Bible says that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. So, it seems super meaningful to me that you feel peace when you hear people praying to Jesus. I believe Jesus wants a relationship with you, and that He is moving in your heart to draw you to Himself”
She nodded, and looked like she had a big grin when I told her that (though, she had a mask on, so it was hard to tell 😷😅).
The next day, I brought her a Bible as I’d promised, and got her in contact with one of the ladies from our team so she could talk through deeper questions.
A couple hours after I left the Bible with her, she sent me a couple photos of her new Bible. She had been reading, and underlining verses and sentences which she found especially meaningful to her… which ended up being a TON of verses!
“I’ll Carry this Truth With Me for the Rest of my Life”
A couple days later I went back to the coffee shop again. It was much busier, so we weren’t able to talk much, but at a calmer moment she came by my table and showed me some of the things she had been learning and marking in her Bible, and asked a few questions. She had already finished Matthew in just that short time, and was about to go onto Mark.
At the end, she said, “You know, I don’t yet know if I’m going to become a Christian, or if I’ll just stay a deist, or what. But this book is amazing! I can tell you, I’m going to take the lessons I’m learning from this book with me for the rest of my life!”
“That’s super cool! 🥲” I replied. “These words and the One who said them have changed my life, so I pray they change yours, too!”