Friday, June 19, 2009

"Love Your Enemies"

One of the hardest statements that Jesus ever made was his admonishment to love our enemies. To understand why this was so hard we have to remember the audience that Jesus was talking to. The Jews of Palestine at that point were an occupied people. Rome had been their overlords for decades and the dream of the Jewish people was for the promised Messiah to come and over-throw them.

So when Jesus tells his audience in the Sermon on the Mount that they are to love their enemies, pray for those who curse them, turn the other cheek and go the extra mile, he's not simply talking about loving and responding kindly to those who speak badly about us. What he is talking about here is a radical love that goes beyond loving those who love us; he's talking about loving people that seek our harm, that go against everything we as followers of Jesus might stand for.

In his book, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, David Dark talks about perversion and not simply in the sexual manner that we mostly think about perversion in. He points out that anytime we reduce someone to a caricature or to a single dimension of who they are, we are perverting them, because we're not taking into account the whole person, created in the image of God. Whether that is a woman that we look at and think is "hot" or even someone we classify as a "terrorist," looking at a single aspect of someone and defining the person by that aspect is perversion. And the worst form of that perversion is deciding to hate someone based on that aspect.

And so, when Jesus calls us to "love our enemies," what he's calling us to do is to actively look beyond a person as an "enemy," and to see God in them, whether they do or not. Because it is only in love that a heart can be changed, and that is what Jesus came to do, to turn the hearts of people back to the God that created them.


mundiejc said...

Derek Webb

Politics and Love
can make you blind or make you see
make you a slave or make you free
but only one does it all

its giving up your life
for the ones you hate the most
its giving them your gown
when they've taken your clothes

its learning to admit
when you've had a hand in setting them up
and knocking them down

cause love is not against the law
love is not against the law

are we defending life
when we just pick and choose
lives acceptable to lose
and which ones to defend

because you cannot choose your friends
but you choose your enemies
what if they were one
one in the same

could you find a way
to love them both the same
to give them your name

love is not against the law
love is not against the law

Ben said...

I was reading last night about how your own self respect influences the respect you have for others. The more I thought about it made me realize that Jesus was pretty confident with himself giving him the ability to love anyone, enemy or friend.

I wonder if it is difficult to love and respect our enemies, because we fail to fully respect ourselves and the new life we have in Christ.

This makes me think differently about the "plank and speck" Jesus talks about in terms of judging others. When we identify someone as an "enemy" we've already made a judgment.

Perhaps we're a bigger enemy to ourselves than others are to us. It brings up the old question of "Can we love others beyond the extent of how much we feel loved by God?"

Doug said...

I recently heard Desmond Tutu speak to you point of loving your enemies. Simply put (and he does it much more eloquently then I), to not love your enemies is nothing short of blasphemy of God. Each person is God-created and has the breath of God in them. To do anything less than honor, love and respect that person reflects more on how we view God than it does on how we see that person. When Jesus said, “in as much as you do it to the least of these you do it to me” I sense that same incarnational paradigm that I am called to live and act on. If I truly see Jesus in the face of the people I meet, then how can I not serve and love?

Brian said...

"love you neighbor as yourself"... if you do not love yourself, then you can't love your neighbor, and you cannot love yourself if you don't see your newness in Christ, your wholeness, your cleanness.

If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, all things are become new. He did not say some things are new, he said all things are new.

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