Loving Your Enemies

Loving Your Enemies

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Matthew 5: 43-45

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

I have always questioned what it means to love someone.  It is so easy to think about romantic love but it is evident that is not the type that is being referred to in the Matthew passage.  It’s even easy to love those who are deemed likeable.  These verses always sound so simple when I read them.   Of course I’ll pray for people.  Simple!  But simplicity goes out the window when I really sit with and contemplate “love.”  This has been the most challenging part of the spiritual journey to me.  It definitely gets more complex when dealing with a friendship gone awry or family drama, and do not get me started on rude strangers.

Not too long ago I had to deal with family drama that had gone bad in one of those ways where I was ready to cut people out of my life, and just be done.  It is so easy to go there.  Yet I couldn’t just leave it in my mind to be done.  That would be me operating out of the many defenses I’ve always used to guard against pain.  This time I had to really ruminate on what it means to love.  I even read a Dr. King sermon to help.  Two points really resonated with me about scars and the image of God.  When we hate, it “scars the soul and distorts the personality” (p53).  While that scar might be on the person who is hated, if they know and care about the hate, it almost always scars the one who hates.  If we hate our enemies instead of loving them, it scars us.  It impacts our soul.  It has the power to change who we are.  Additionally, the one who is hated, like the one who hates, reflects the image of God, meaning that person is “…not totally bad and…not totally beyond the reach of God’s redemptive love” (p51).

Love your enemies.

Gosh, even when reading that sentence, the scripture and King’s sermon, it still makes me…sigh.  But I’m not giving up because clearly Jesus exemplified this when he dealt with the Jews who thought he was some crazy guy trying to lead people astray.  The gospels tell of different stories of Jesus being plotted against and sought after.  Yet Jesus didn’t flip out or cuss people out.   He didn’t try to get revenge.   Jesus didn’t stop being who he was and he didn’t let other people’s issues dictate how he would behave or who he would become.

Of course, I’m not Jesus.  It is helpful, however, to know that he had problems too.  And while I have had different reactions to situations than Jesus did, I at least can follow him in standing on the truth, being who I am, and working on having loving intentions.  Sometimes love is forgiving someone, doing someone a favor, physically embracing the one who made your skin crawl, and the list goes on.  I do however recognize that sometimes love happens from a distance, that some relationships will end, and that I won’t always get it right.  There are numerous ways to love.  I don’t know them all but I am willing to learn and try.  I guess it’s just a part of the journey.