as i was preparing for this week’s journey back into the sermon on the mount, some things got even clearer for me.
if you’re looking for a nice, comfortable religion that doesn’t call for too many demands…one that’s committed to making you feel better…one that will reserve you a spot in heaven when you die…then you shouldn’t raise your hand to be one of jesus’ disciples.
we don’t often think of him this way, but he’s incredibly demanding. he makes it clear that his followers should serve others rather than themselves. he expects absolute integrity…even when no one is looking. and then we get to the passage we studied today.
he requires that we love people. and forgive them. lavishly. and not just people who only occasionally have a bad day. like good, church-going, christian people like us. but we are to love our enemies. love our enemies. ridiculous.
here’s where it starts to get uncomfortable. for most of my life, the idea of loving my enemies was nothing more than a concept. honestly, i’ve never really had people in my life that i would call enemies. i never felt particularly afraid of the communists, like my parents did. nobody really identified the enemy in the vietnam war, so i wasn’t sure who the enemy was. gangs fought each other…it was never my battle.
enemies never ascended past the hypothetical. so i never had to deal with jesus’ command to love my enemies with any sense of importance. it was not my reality. at least not until i began to understand who jesus was actually talking about.
the word jesus chooses for enemy was not a specific word. it was general. it was an umbrella word that simply meant someone who stood on the opposite side. it doesn’t have to mean bad, evil people (tho it certainly includes them). no. the word is simpler…and more complex…than that.
although “one who stands in opposition” can mean one who abuses…one who hates…one who stands as a threat to the things you hold sacred…one who strikes you, steals from you, or poses a real danger to your safety…it means so much more.
i believe in the mind of jesus, your enemy (or opponent) can be someone you disagree with…that has different values from you… that has a different moral code. it can be someone you don’t like or is simply rude or annoying. it can be someone who doesn’t love you…someone who is impatient or unkind or unforgiving or jealous or slanderous of you. it may be someone who just bothers you or someone you fully makes your blood boil.
and now it gets personal. jesus says they are your enemy…and you must love them.
and for the record:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
ouch. so how are you doing? maybe it’s time to start identifying your enemies the way jesus would…and get busy obeying the one you call your master. just saying…