The Power to Change

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43, NRSV).

I never did like Donnie Avery much. 

He was one of those kids who lived on “that” side of my hometown… the side the rest of us tried to avoid. He was regularly sent to the principal’s office for disrupting class in one way or another. He regularly got into fights. 

One time I saw Donnie and two of his friends standing in a tight circle behind the drug store. When I got a little closer to see what they were laughing about, I saw that they had a frog they were torturing in some pretty sad and sadistic ways. 

The real breaking point for me though, was that day in study hall when we were both sophomores in high school. As I was walking up the aisle on my way to the pencil sharpener, I passed Donnie’s desk. Naturally, Donnie stuck his foot out and tripped me as I walked by. I stumbled forward, caught myself, and in one motion turned around and swung my fist at him.

Donnie clearly anticipated my reaction because as I turned, he was holding his own, freshly sharpened pencil out in front of himself… like a spear. The point of that pencil went straight into my right thumb and snapped off. To this day – more than 50 years later – I can still show you that graphite-colored spot on my right thumb where Donnie Avery’s pencil jabbed me. 

As much of a nuisance as Donnie Avery was growing up, I don’t think I ever considered him my enemy

Mostly I just thought of him as a guy to steer clear of, if at all possible. 

But LOVING Donnie Avery? Are you serious, Jesus?

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “enemy” as: “One that is antagonistic to another especiallyone seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.”

Try wrapping your mind around that for a moment; imagine that standing there, right in front of you is a person who is yes… annoying, bothersome, and irritating. But then, on top of all of that, this person is also actively seeking to, “injure, overthrow, or confound” you. 

And then you hear the voice of Jesus sounding in your ear saying, “See that person? Yes… THAT one. The one who is out to get you? I want you to love them.”

On the one hand it is the most ridiculous idea you and I have ever heard.

On the other hand, it is also the most radical, revolutionary, and world-changing idea we have ever or WILLever hear.

It tests us.

It puts us on the spot.

When we hear Jesus speak that command, we are instantly required to give an honest answer to the question, “Do you want things to change? Or do you just want to keep hanging on to all of your feeble excuses for why they never will?”

Joan and I watched a special on PBS the other night about the Freedom Riders. These were the folks who fought to integrate the buses that traveled from state-to-state in the deep south in the early 60s. 

In their quest, they were insulted, screamed at, beaten, burned, shot, jailed, and denied due legal process by people who genuinely sought to “injure, overthrow, or confound” them. 

In other words, by genuine ENEMIES

And yet, guided by the words of Jesus and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they chose to not fight back. They did not resist. They determined to love those very real, very hate-filled enemies.

In the end, of course, they prevailed.

Today I wonder; if it was possible for Jesus to love those who sought to injure, overthrow, or confound him, and if it was possible for many of his followers throughout the ages to do the same, should you and I strive to do anything less? 

Hmmm. I wonder what Donnie Avery is up to these days?

Abundant blessings;

2 Responses to “The Power to Change”

  1. November 9, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    You won’t believe this, but just now I did a search for “Donnie Avery” on Facebook, just for the heck of it. The first one I saw had a post that said, “Just saying. I was saved at church this morning. Fighting it for so long! Finally, relief!! Amen.” There’s another Donnie Avery that’s a tenor in the Four in Christ Quartet (!!!) in Jacksonville, NC. …OK, I’d going to mind my own business now. Just sayin, if you really are wondering what someone is up to these days, there are sometimes ways of finding out. 😉

    • November 9, 2020 at 11:01 pm

      I saw that, too. The one who posted about being saved at church this morning looks a little too young to be MY Donnie Avery, but the other one is about the right age. Oddly enough, there was a wide receiver on my favorite team – the Kansas City Chiefs – named Donnie Avery a few years ago.

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