"Love Your Enemies"
"Love Your Enemies"
This picture makes me wonder about why someone would chose this particular saying to write on their street corner sign. It certainly is an indirect way to ask for money. It would have been better to use verse 30…”Give to everyone who begs from you.” You know, I’ve never seen that sign!
Was she hoping to be photographed and put onto google images to send a message to someone she hopes will love her again? Did she steal from someone? Did she sleep with her best friend’s lover? Did she do both, blame the theft on her best friend, and go to Vegas where she gambled it all away? Now, she holds the sign up, hoping for compassion, for mercy?
Or is she just a sanctimonious sister telling us what we are to do.
Who is she talking to?
There is nothing about her on the internet. She is a meme…a face without a story…a face used for others to tell theirs. And, there are many who want to talk about this particular saying of Jesus. Love of enemy is a mark of a Christian. Following the Meme I read an article by a Catholic priest and one who “Channels” energy. And, now, here she is on our screen! And, I join the cloud of witnesses proclaiming we do what is most unnatural…
Love our enemies!
Unlike the woman on the screen, we do know who it is Jesus is talking to. This week’s scripture is a continuance of Jesus’ sermon on the Level Place…yes, not the “mount”…Matthew, who likes to compare Jesus to Moses, has Jesus on a mountain.
But, in Luke, where the message is, as often as not, about creating a level playing field so the poor might prosper, we have the Sermon on the Level Plain.
Those of you who were here last week know that his teaching occurs after he has healed all people with no forms to fill out …no need to declare ethnicity, sexuality, or educational attainment. All they had to do was touch him. But then there were those who sought more from Jesus than to be healed. They stuck around, wanting more…because there are those who, when touched by Jesus, can not go back to the way they once lived. Jesus’ healing, even as it gives strength to weak organs, calls the soul out into the sunshine of God’s love. Those who dare allow themselves to “come out”… long for direction on how to “stay out.” … how to get more of the sun in their lives…how to be as God be.
To you…Jesus says, “Love your enemies.”
But, loving our enemy is a very unnatural thing to do.
It is more natural to hold grudges, to defend ourselves by making sure we can lay blame on another, and even to list all the reasons we can’t stand that person.
Last week, we got to see the youth at their conference. It was tremendous to talk with Ashley and Justin immediately after—they were aglow with God’s love. Then, I got to speak to a few of my colleagues, who were less aglow. Afterwards, I was feeling disconnected. So I started down the path of what is wrong with them! To be fair, I spent some time thinking about what was wrong with me too.
This is my natural way of being.
Yesterday, I spent hours in my backyard, pulling weeds with sermon ruminating in my mind. I had started down that old familiar path of thinking about what was wrong with…
After the rain, weeds sprout up everywhere in my yard. Some are 2 feet high! Obscuring any kind of order I’ve tried to create, it reminds me of the jungle of Jurassic Park.
My thoughts about what is wrong with this and that…they are like weeds wanting to destroy the gentle plantings of God. When I water them, they grow and proliferate until my mind no longer is a place for me to rest…but a place to continually fight back the weeds. I realized…if I want to enjoy God’s sunshine…if I want to be as God be…I need to stop watering the weeds.
To Love Enemy requires we stop thinking up reasons why someone is the “enemy”…we stop giving those thoughts the fuel they need to grow. When we start down the path of “what is wrong” with that person…we pray Jesus…we call forth Jesus on the level plain, who stands with that person, despite all their irritations and everything that they are doing wrong. We allow ourselves to see that Jesus stands with them even so and not because he loves them more than you or thinks they better than you…not because he wants to replace you with that person…but because there is sunshine enough for us all.
Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.
That mercy, my friends, is boundless.
Part of why I sometimes struggle with my colleagues, and I’m being honest here so don’t judge me…
Is there is a part of me that feels like I am competing. So when Amber suggested she would like to take the youth on a field trip to another church on Sunday, I rightly told her that wasn’t a good idea because we are family. Our youth need their family. There are plenty of events when they can connect with the larger community. But…there was part of me that was rankled…you really think that white bred woman in Newport leads a better worship than we do?
Now friends, don’t be like others I know who say…”Oh, pastor you really have a problem there”…or feel like you need to defend me.
Don’t push God away … acting like you need to be my savior. I’ve already got a Savior.
I am sharing my human experience in an effort to call forth yours. It is natural to have times when you are irritated with someone because, what they have said or done, makes you feel less than. And, the natural reaction is to defend…to start making lists… to start watering dem weeds.
I am calling you out, on this level plain, with Jesus to be honest enough to admit you own a watering can.
Otherwise, you can go off with those who were healed and didn’t need to hear anything more from Jesus. You’ve got all you need. Go up to your mountaintop and enjoy the view.
This message is for us who, not only have a watering can, but, from time to time, take hold of the hose! We are the ones who stand in need of mercy so welcome the idea that God is merciful.
Be merciful, as your father is merciful…means, allowing God’s mercy to lead us out of the weed filled yard for a moment, and turn our eyes up to see the expanse of the sky. To allow God to turn your thoughts to the things you really want to grow…Amber really connected at the conference and would like to continue that connection. How might I help her and the youth continue what was begun?
And love fills me.
I encourage you to take one person in your life…one person who irritates you from time to time…maybe even the one sitting right next to you right now…
and, when the thoughts arise about what is wrong…stopping yourself in mid rant. And, walk outside…look up. In the endless sky…see God’s endless mercy…and allow God’s mercy to turn your mind to what you wish .. not to stop… but what you wish to grow.The Christian Path is not natural to our being but it is a path that allow our souls to live in God’s boundless love…to get to the place where we are moved, not by competition or feeling less than, but by the Holy Spirit.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Holocaust survivor who was called by God to go to Germany, after the war, and speak a message of forgiveness. She would say to them, “when we confess our sins, God casts them into the deep ocean. They are gone forever.”
One day, an audience member came up to her after the talk. He was the very same guard who terrorized her and her sister who had been sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp for hiding Jews. He didn’t recognize her as he told her he had become a Christian. That he was a guard at the camp of which she spoke and had done terrible things. He needed forgiveness…he needed her to take him by the hand and say “I forgive you.”
It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.”
Okay…you who are standing on the level plain with Jesus… by his command to love lift your hand to make an enemy a friend…let Jesus do the rest…there is plenty of sunshine for us all.
Reverend Heather Miner
North Long Beach Christian Church