Friday, November 20, 2015

Love Your Enemies?

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who hurt you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.  Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.  Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!  And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  “Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.  Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.  Luke 6:27-36 (NLT)
Some of the “Preacher Groups” on FaceBook™ can get pretty argumentative.  (“Argumentative” is a really kind word to describe some nasty/angry exchanges.) 

Wednesday they were arguing about the Syrian refugee issue, and letting “those people” into the U.S.  One said:  “Gee, I wish we had a story of a middle-eastern couple fleeing for their lives that are turned away by the heartless.”  (Pictures of Joseph and a very pregnant Mary at the door of the inn leap to mind.) 

The second preacher wrote:  “But did you notice when the Good Samaritan helped the stranger that he put him up in a hotel, he didn’t take him home to stay in his own bed?”

These arguments clearly frame two positions you could take in the current debate…namely, how can you be compassionate (love your enemy), while securing the safety of your family and neighbors (as in closing the borders)?

Earlier this week[2] I suggested something of a limited asylum, something of a supervised hospitality which is the best we can offer the strangers who want to come here. 

But, re-reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount seems to call for much more than that, something much better.  When you offer your shirt to go with the coat your enemy just stole from you, or pray for the one who hurt you, or try to do good to those who hate you, or…, or…, or…well, where does it stop?

The same could be said of our sins and the cross; where does grace stop?

I have to admit that my leaning on this issue has surprised me.  Just one look at the extremist Islamic jihadist, gun-toting young men in the picture above brings back the flood of feelings on 9/11/2001, and the indignation of a nation ready to plunge into war. 

But, then, there is that Sermon on the Mount; Jesus was always touting forgiveness for us – even though our sins are as terrorist-laden towards God as those who strap on an exploding vest.

What do you do?  What should you do?  These are very disturbing questions, and cannot be satisfied with throw-away one-liners from the campaign stumps – from either side.  Security and safety are important; compassion is vital to stem the madness of war and hatred.

What to do?

One thing we can all do is look into the faces of those whom we portray as “evil” and remember that our own faces might just as well be there.  It is so important to look in a mirror before we judge another.

Incidentally, if you follow the link to the title picture, you’ll see that the picture of the four young men with weapons is of Taliban soldiers who are quitting the fighting.  They are laying their weapons down in favor of peace.  Might we do that too?

For You Today

Part of Jesus’ sermon includes what we call the Golden Rule.  So, how would you like to be treated if you were on the run?

Think about that out on the Rocky Road today…and have a great day!

[1] Title image:  "Tuenger Facetie". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
[2] See the post on “Fear” here

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