And here’s me thinking you was only joking …
This following reflection is taken from one of four studies I prepared for use during the morning Bible Study sessions at General Synod 2010. The studies included set questions for discussion, and were led and presented by members of the Youth Stewards Programme who read out the reflection below before delegates gathered in small groups to discuss how the reading and reflection applied to their Synod work that day.
27 “But I tell you who hear me: 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 strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
When Jesus was asked to name the greatest of all commandments, he replied “Love …”
“Love the Lord you God with all your heart, your soul, and your strength.”
“Love your neighbour as yourself.”
“Upon these two things,” Jesus said, “hangs The Torah and The Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40). The fulcrum upon which all scripture and revelation rests is love.
Now, it’s true that we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19), and in turn we love all those who are dear to us, and those who return our love and attention. Our hearts are open to the like-minded, the agreeable, the supporter, the benefactor, and the friend.
Enemies, however, are a different matter. We resist them. We turn our hearts away, and close our ears. We don’t want to help them, or even like them. We may even go further and vilify them, defame them, and seek retribution for the wrongs we’ve perceived.
Jesus requires a different response from us. He asks us to do something that indeed may be the most difficult, nauseating, and impossible thing that we have ever done.
Jesus asks us to love our enemies.
That’s right – you have to love your enemies. The guy who borrowed your lawn-mower and never returned it. The woman who ran over your cat. That kid next door who insists on playing the stereo extra loud at night.
You have to love them.
That person who seems to “have it in” for you. The other who casually slanders you in every conversation. Even that annoying delegate who opposes every motion and resolution that you propose.
You have to love them.
And, should you ever be tempted to reduce your obligation to love, Jesus offers further advice: Don’t retaliate. Don’t seek recompense. Don’t judge or condemn. Forgive, give, and lend without seeking anything in return.
It’s a tall order for Christians of any ilk, let alone we Anglicans who are gathered here. But try we must, and with great prayer and honest faith, we may even succeed.
We should love our enemies.