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"Bridging religious and cultural divides"

mike yakawich outdoorPastor Mike Yakawich (UTS '87) is among the many active alumni of UTS. He is married to Yukiko and they have five children. Besides guiding his own congregation in Billings, MT, Pastor Yakawich is actively engaged in multiple community organizations in Montana. He has also taught an Intensive course on "The Dynamics of Church Leadership" here at UTS.

Today (January 31, 2016), I will attend a Sunday ecumenical service. The theme is “Loving Your Enemy”. This sparked me to write this reflection.

Matthew 5:44  “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

When I think of loving our enemy, I think of Jesus who loved those who nailed him to the cross. He did not deserve such treatment. Yet he loved the people.  He said,

Luke 23:34  “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”


On the theme of loving one’s enemy, on a personal level, I think about my father and my wife. Certainly, they were not enemies, but for my dad, my wife represented the enemy country and the people whom he fought in WWII.

When I was young my father told me stories about his life during WWII. He was a marine in the Pacific War. He fought hand to hand combat with the Japanese soldiers; he flew in a B52 airplane, bombing the Japanese army and naval bases. He was shot at and he lost many friends in the war. My father and his wartime friends had a lot of bad feelings about the Japanese.

Then my wife who is from Japan and I got married. We moved to Billings, MT and spent a lot of time with my dad. He said that my wife won his heart. He said that a lot of his friends who fought in the Pacific died with resentment toward the Japanese. He was so grateful not to keep that resentment toward the Japanese.

Corinthians 13:13  “And now abideth faith, hope, love, of these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

The winning of heart between my dad and my wife was a reciprocal relationship of love. My wife served him; she loved him; she did his laundry; she fed him the American food that he liked. She placed flowers in his room; she had our boys respect him and be polite towards him. She made the effort. My dad brought her coolers of frozen fish that he had caught. He made smoked fish, pickled fish, and mustard fish for her and our family. He made the effort. This exemplifies where trust and a willingness to share hearts and take risks can happen and a deep love can arise.


In  John 21 verses 15-19 Jesus is talking with Simon Peter. He says: “Do you love me?”      “Feed my sheep.”      “Follow me.”

I find a key: Make the effort. Neither my wife nor my father just rolled over and expected the other to serve, or to love. They both made the effort, a reciprocal relationship, an example of unconditional love.

Let’s explore this further. Do we love our friends? ... Well, we call them our friends!

Are we putting our words into action? How are we doing? It is a simple but very deep question. I suggest that if we love our friends, we can love our enemies more easily. If we are not able to love our family, the folks in our neighborhood, and our friends, then to love our enemies may be an even greater hurdle.


 Please take the time to reflect on what is love? It is living for the sake of others. It is selflessness. It is serving others.

How are we at doing this? Think about servant leadership. It guides us how to love our spouse, our friend, and our enemy. Am I willing to sacrifice myself for the other or do I think of others sacrificing for myself?  Servant leadership is the practice of sacrificing oneself for others.

I am also thinking that loving one’s enemies may even be easier than loving a friend. Why? Loving one’s enemy may involve limited time and service, and possibly be more superficial.

As a friend to a friend, you already know the friend’s weaknesses. They are familiar. To truly love you have to be more sincere, more committed, more invested. It’s deeper and long term. After all, a friend will recognize how genuine and sincere you are (or not).

Examples of loving your enemy or your friend: volunteering, helping the neighbor, shoveling the neighbor’s sidewalk, serving one’s parents, serving one’s siblings, serving one’s spouse, calling, communicating, supporting. It could be taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, cleaning the laundry. In short, we sacrifice our self for the sake of the other.

What challenges do you face in loving your enemy? In loving your friend? How do you overcome those obstacles? What are your solutions? Insights?

If you can take away a few points, here they are:

  1. Loving your enemy is not impossible.
  2. Loving your enemy requires effort and investment.
  3. Before you love your enemy, love your friends, family, spouse.
  4. Love is serving and sacrificing for others, taking risks and building open and honest relationships.

"Bridging religious and cultural divides"

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