Love your neighbor.

In Lent 23 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

Matthew 5:43-45, NLT

Loving one’s enemy goes against every inclination we human beings have. When hurt we want to hurt back. When rejected we reject. When denied, we deny. It’s the way of the world.

It’s easy to see that such an approach does not work. It takes something like M.A.D. (mutually assured destruction) to keep governments from starting wars or amping up wars. MAD is the lowest, most primal, animalistic sort of defense. Yet in a world without love, it is the only way we can defend ourselves from destruction.

There are many other wrong motivations for what we human’s do. We deny people food because we fear for our own security. We keep people out of positions of shared power because we don’t want them to succeed like we have. Amos the prophet said something like this to the wealthy and privileged people of his time.

Woe to those who live in luxury
and expect everyone else to serve them!
Woe to those who live only for today,
indifferent to the fate of others!
Woe to the playboys, the playgirls,
who think life is a party held just for them!
Woe to those addicted to feeling good—life without pain!
those obsessed with looking good—life without wrinkles!
They could not care less
about their country going to ruin.

Amos 6:4-8, The Message

Jesus said there should be no limit around our initiative to love. “But they’ll take advantage of me.” Love anyway – Jesus. “They’ve always got their hands out.” It doesn’t matter. Love them anyway – Jesus. “They really wounded me.” I was wounded too. Love them anyway – Jesus. “They don’t deserve my love.” And you don’t “deserve” mine. Love them anyway – Jesus.

The world will get no better than our lowest inclination. Loving our enemies is the only strategy that will cure the ills of our world. But be warned. Loving our enemies flies in the face of every human impulse we have. It is difficult and requires great sacrifice. But Jesus says, do it anyway.

Prayer: God of the Cross, you went to the Cross without any hope for personal gain. You went to the Cross when human beings did not deserve the good you were about to do for them. Through the Cross you turned the hearts of people like the thief at your side, the Centurion who watched you die, and the rich man who gave you his tomb. May we be people willing to love our enemies, O God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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