We took a week to vacation with our friends and family over the Fourth in So. Cal. On Sunday Lori and I attended the church my son-in-law is planting in Redlands. As it happens he’s teaching on one of my Top 10 Most Disruptive Things Christ Said/Did…
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Matthew 5
My first reaction is along the lines of, “Love your enemies!” Yeah, right… It’s hard enough loving my wife who I do profoundly love and who loves me like no other”. Are you serious? It’s so easy to dismiss this passage! And yet I cannot for God is very present.
My second reaction:
Okay… all of that to say I’ve written a paragraph… a lengthy paragraph giving my second reaction but can’t include it. God won’t let me.
It may be my best writing…it’s a sharp/terse detailed paragraph describing a couple of low life weasels that I consider enemies. Using names, dates and collaborating witnesses I lay out their offenses against both me and the God who judges the living and the dead righteously (I mean, after all is said and done… it’s their offense against God that most offends me.)
Well, in any case… God won’t let me include that paragraph… He simply, kindly yet firmly and continually redirects my focus from these chest-less-rats-for-men… these wolves posing as sheep who’s misbehavior have done harm to me and my family (and many others) to this conditional-loving-no-better-than-a-pagan nice guy.
God points out that I’m more concerned with their failures to live well than mine…while He seems more concerned with my failures than theirs.
It’s so disrupting that I’m apparently the center of his attention and NOT them… does he not know the full story?!
Quite honestly if it’s an enemy worth his salt one feels pretty justified in being smug, judging, hating, bad mouthing, avoiding and pondering all the “upsides” to retaliation. I do.
Yet God will not let me go there… he is speaking to something within me… he’s calling out some true part of me. This passage can’t be set aside as a description of life in a distant and other-worldly millennium! It’s descriptive of a life in the here-and-now transformed by the full work of Christ… the Gospel!
Might it actually be possible to live holy… loving lives? Can we genuinely in some form or fashion love our enemies? To live free from the control others misbehavior/sin/hatred/meanness seems to have upon us?
So much of my life is shaped by the formula: I love those who love me; I hate those who hate me. Love me and I’ll love you, hate me and I’ll hate you. How you live your life has greater influence over me than God.
There’s another way to live and it is really, really, really possible… and I want to live that life. I’d love for my enemies to change; God ‘s insisting that I do.
Love means to love that which is unlovable, or it is no virtue at all.
- G.K. Chesterton