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Friday, July 11, 2014

Love Your Enemies..in this Case, Our Neighbors

 "…"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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.…" Matthew 5:43-45


You have heard it one time or another, "love your enemies," and depending on your situation at the time, this may sound easy. However, if you are faced with someone who has deeply wronged you, you know how incredibly difficult this is to put into action. In my recent devotions I have come across forgiveness and loving your enemies several times. Little did I know that the Lord was preparing me for the huge bump in the road just ahead of me.
My husband and I are very easy going, sweet people. Sometimes we are TOO nice. It takes a lot to get us upset and we don't like confrontation and tend to trust others more than we should. We were living in a rental house for the past 3 years with the landlords living right across the street, literally. Most people when they heard this looked at us with that expression of "yikes." We used to defend them saying how they are great landlords and never bother us and have been pretty sweet to us. All of that changed when our lease was about to expire. They informed us that we were going to have to move out because their son was "having financial difficulties" and they were going to rent it out to him, his girlfriend and their two children. When we first moved in there, they said "don't worry, we would never kick you guys out so that our kids could live here." I didn't bring this up but instead just tried to be understanding. We were never late in the 3 years we had lived there and have always been courteous and sweet with them and had a really great relationship (or at least I thought so) with them. We did the "initial inspection" walk through to where they replied, "Wow, everything looks great! You guys took great care of the place. Don't worry about the carpet, just vacuum because we are tearing it out. Don't worry about the kitchen counters, we are replacing them with granite." I was happy to hear this because it meant one less expense to pay to have the carpets shampooed. We were in such a financial pinch with moving expenses and my husbands low hours recently and the only thing we had agreed to have taken from our deposit was to replace all the blinds in the house which were CHEAPIE plastic blinds that all broke within the first year of living there. The only other major issue we needed to deal with was painting both of the kids rooms that I painted one was a light grey and the other was a pale aqua. They told us to only "Primer" the walls because their son was planning to paint whatever color when he moved in. I did TWO COATS in both rooms of primer and a little bit of the paint showed through, but they were primed and any coat of paint you placed over it would cover it completely.  I thought I cleaned it really well and literally spent HOURS scrubbing the floor with bleach and a toothbrush and bleach-bombed the rest of the house as I normally do when I clean.
So the dreaded e-mail came...they complained about EVERY.SINGLE.THING. They marked just about everything as "dirty" and painted us to be dirty slobs. Anyone who knows us personally or have ever been to my house at any time knows how clean we are. As a matter of fact, they have been in there un-announced  several times and each time the place was "so cute and clean," according to what she would say. They took $700 our of our $1,100 deposit. They charged a cleaning service to clean the place over and replaced the blinds and charged $40 per room to "re-paint and primer." The move out itemized list was even worse. They blamed us for things the previous tenants did and placed responsibility on us for MAINTENANCE issues that are the landlord's responsibility such as the return air filter on the AC being dirty even though we paid for a new one to be nice and left it for them in its original, unopened package. 
This was pretty much my reaction at the e-mail.
I was hurt. I felt betrayed. We both (my husband and I) felt we were taken advantage of. We did not take pictures because, silly me, I thought they were decent, reasonable people. I wrote an e-mail of how upset I was, how unfair it was, etc but I deleted the whole thing because that still, small voice was saying,
"love your enemies."
But it's not fair, God! They are wolves in sheep's clothing! They misled us!
"Forgive."
At this point, my whole body was trembling from anger and my face was red-hot. If I had a punching bag at the time, I'd have two tickets to the gunshow with my buff arms. But then, I recalled something I was told by someone who had this advice passed on to them, " You have to forgive them, you don't have to trust them." Whoa, mind blown!
It really put it into perspective for me, I don't have to be friends with them, I don't have to trust them, but I do need to forgive and move on. Another verse that kept coming to mind was one I came across in my devotion time from 1 Corinthians 6 when Paul was addressing the issue of "suing" one another in the church of Corinth.
"Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?" 1 Corinthians 6:7
This seems to be "unfair," but is it really worth the expense, the headache, the stress, for a few dollars won in court? Is it not more mature and godly to accept the injustice and in turn leave more of an impact on our enemies by choosing to forgive? Jesus Christ was treated "unfair" and even put to death for it! He was the only sinless man to have ever existed and in being so and being God, could have easily demanded justice and defended himself by all means, but He didn't, and I believe He left an incredible example for us to follow. Our landlords are not Christians. We may be the only Christians they are exposed to. We have an incredible responsibility to represent Christ, especially to our enemies! Would my angry email reply have made a difference? Would they have opened it and thought I was right? Most likely not, so what would have been the purpose? In my flesh, I may have felt better about giving them a piece of my mind, but we are called to have self-control and restraint. I can pray for their salvation, and show them Jesus through my actions and witness to them. I'll be honest, I really wanted to defend myself and my character, but God knows and will honor my restraint. It took a while to cool down, but in the end I feel better knowing I held back at my fleshy urges in order to honor God. We are grateful to receive almost $400 out of our deposit, just enough to pay off our marriage retreat for later this year.

One thing I would highly advise to would-be renters out there, go for a complex rather than a house rented out by a personal owner. Companies seem to be more fair and decent on move out inspections rather than owners. Might just save you your deposit ;)

For all those out there who struggle with this, know that God will reward you for making the right choice. Being kind to your enemies could leave a profound impact on them, and show them their need for Christ. Thanks for bearing with me through my blog therapy! Lol :) God bless <3