A woman I knew recently wrote to ask me for information about community organizations that might offer support to her long-distance friend caught in an abusive relationship. I wrote back about what such organizations might provide and suggested some questions her friend should ask: do they have a secure shelter; do they offer guidance on how to leave should that become necessary; will they help the woman think through practical, safe measures to cope with the situation; do they provide counseling to help her deal with the trauma – that sort of thing. All crucial, but still incomplete.
I say incomplete because beyond such crucial and practical steps lies a deeper and more important quest: dethroning the hatred that invades a victim’s heart. Hatred doesn’t vanish with time; nor does it disappear when ignored. Unaddressed hatred continues to destroy. For its damage to cease, hatred must be replaced. With what? With the only effective replacement: with love. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, her friend needed to learn how to love her enemy. That part of healing is not often addressed.
Bold Love for an Enemy
An abusive spouse is an enemy, but so are many others. Those who lie to us, those who fail to care for us, bullies, manipulators – the list goes on and on. The bible tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:35). How do we pull that off? Usually not very well.
We typically respond to enemies both poorly and foolishly. How do we love our enemies in a way that is helpful and wise? That’s the issue that Allender and Longman tackle as they sort through the complexities and challenges of loving an enemy. Don’t expect from them some sort of abstract theological treatise. And don’t expect a sweetness-and-light superficial approach that ignores the real issues. Expect instead a careful look at both practical choices and deep issues of the heart.
This book begins with a thoughtful introduction about what forgiveness does and does not involve. It ends with three intriguing chapters about what it means to love an evil person, how to love a fool, and how to love a normal sinner. From cover to cover these two authors offer ideas I’d never considered. You’ll find yourself surprised and challenged by their thoughts about how to offer bold love to those who offer little if any love in return.
Bold Love is creative, biblically accurate, wise, encouraging, and deeply helpful. I highly recommend it.
It’s the best book I’ve ever read on how to forgive an enemy.
[Bold Love by Dan Allender & Tremper Longman, NavPress, 1992]
Book Review © Lynne Fox, 2017