Sometimes I wish it were easier to capture what Jesus was trying to communicate. Then again, maybe I am just complicating that which is simple and clear. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus serves up this gem:
"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, . . ." (Matthew 5:43-44)Really? How's that working for us?
Maybe in the private piety of personal prayer we can pull this off, but how about in the public practice of our faith in community. We pray for the sick, the mourning, the homeless, the hungry, etc. We've come to expect that. When is the last time we prayed for the villain du jour? I don't remember many benevolent prayers being offered up for Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.
Never-mind such extreme examples. How about everyday enemies? What does your grudge list look like? Who are those individuals in your life who push your buttons and activate deep-dwelling resentments? Be honest. We all have such a list. Some lists are long, others concise, yet they all contain names of people we would rather not run into on the sidewalk or at the grocery store.
It could be, however, that some of our everyday enemies are people we encounter everyday. How unfortunate and painful. That's no way to live. Maybe we wish they would go away forever either voluntarily or via targeted dispatch, dead or alive.
Whoever these everyday enemies are for you and me, our Lord Jesus says to us, "Love them, pray for them." This is not a suggestion or a recommendation. It is no piece of advice or just simple wise counsel. Sounds like Jesus really means business.
So, what to do?
I have a hunch that probably most, if not all, of our everyday enemies are people we know personally. And we know them personally, more than likely, because we have had or do have some sort of relationship with them. By definition, then, it is a two-way street. Right? Let's be honest. I'm certainly not trying to suggest that we asked for it or are intentionally creating the conditions in which enemies are cultivated. Yet, to some extent or the other, we probably are culpable.
Take some time in the day or so ahead to read the passage from Matthew's gospel that we will explore together on Sunday morning. (Matthew 5:38-48) It is a continuation of Jesus's Sermon on the Mount.
And, do me a favor, if you have a spare moment, e-mail me your thoughts on this. Maybe I'll reflect some of them in the sermon this week. It will be a better experience for all of us if we cooperate! You can email directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, thanks for taking the time to read and reflect. Share this post with others . . . maybe with some of your everyday enemies. Looking forward to seeing you soon!
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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
February 23, 2014
Prayer of the Day
Holy God of compassion,
you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace.
Lead us to love our enemies,
and transform our words and deeds
to be like his through whom we pray,
Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23