January 5, 2021
Telford UMC/Asbury UMC
Three Rivers District
27 “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 31 Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.
I believe that most people are familiar with this last verse, even if they don’t know that Jesus said it. We know it as the “golden rule,” to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But to really get to the heart of this “rule of life”, we need to go back and see the context in which Jesus spoke these words.
Luke’s gospel speaks often and directly to the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed, and in particular to those who have the power, and those on whom that power is wielded.
And so Jesus calls his followers to do good, to offer blessings, to pray, to not seek retaliation, and to give freely without expectation or even repayment.
And the basis for all these actions, Jesus said, is in “loving your enemies.”
Have you ever wondered who Jesus had in mind?
Who is my enemy?
Later in Luke’s gospel Jesus told an expert in the law to, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” To this the man asked a very pointed question: “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:27-28).
Jesus’ response was to give us the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan.
That answered the question, “who is my neighbor?”
But what about the question, “who is my enemy?”
Unfortunately we don’t have a cocky expert in the law asking Jesus this question on this occasion, so we are simply left with what Jesus said, and our own lives to interpret this.
Later Jesus had said, “If you love only those who love you, why should you be commended?” (Luke 6:32).
In one sense perhaps our enemies are those who do not love us. But in another, perhaps our enemies are those who we do not really love. Perhaps there is a stronger connection between our neighbor and our enemy than we often admit. Sometimes it is the people who are closest to us, that we disagree on one thing with, that can be most contentious. Maybe it is religion, or politics, or any host of other issues that seek to divide us as followers of Christ and as the Church.
And yet Jesus seems clear on what the response of his followers should be, whether to neighbor, or enemy, or both. And that is love.
Love God. Love others.
And yet Jesus began by saying, “I say to you who are willing to hear”.
And maybe that’s the catch here. Are we willing to hear this command of love? Are we willing to hear this command of love and actually live it out in doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who cuss us out, praying for those who mistreat us, turning the other cheek when we are slapped, and giving without expectation.
Are we willing to really love those who vote differently, live differently, love differently?
Are we willing to do all these things to others with the hope that they will return and do these things to us? And will we keep doing these things when our neighbor/enemy doesn’t reciprocate? Will we just….love?
Holy and Loving God, as we are beginning this new year, help us to really love You and others today and every day. Amen.