It's Not Always Easy, But it is the Love of God
Among Jesus’ commands and teachings, there are some truly difficult ideas. Perhaps none is more difficult than the command to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). And yet, this command is also one that sets Christians apart from the rest of the world. Certainly other religions contain ideas that may be similar to this one, but what this teaching does is to set Christians–followers of Jesus–apart from the worldly point of view.
And this is a major theme in the New Testament. There is the way of the world, and there is the way of the Kingdom of Heaven. What is difficult for us to understand is that these kingdoms cannot be brought together. They cannot be joined together. They do not support one another. And just to make things as confusing as possible, sometimes, they share characteristics or values. But, don’t be mistaken, they are not one in the same.
And even with that in the background, Jesus commands us to love our enemies and to pray for them. In Jesus’ politics no one is undeserving of our love, attention, and care. In Jesus’ economy we give to others even when they are undeserving. In Jesus’ religiosity there is no separation between God and human because Jesus has brought us all back together.
This is the beauty of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Jesus invites us to live into a new kind of kingdom, one that is not defined by the way of the world, but that is instead defined by the love that Jesus shows us is from God the Father. And that kind of love is the kind of love that loves enemies. It is the kind of love that does not create distinctions between who is worthwhile and who isn’t. It gives of itself freely, even when it makes no sense to do so. It suffers on behalf of others. It is not directed or determined by feelings or circumstances.
It is the love of God made possible through the love that God has for all of creation. It is the love that Jesus shares in his life and most certainly through his death and resurrection. It is divine love. It is perfect love. And it is this highest form of love that we as followers of Jesus are called to exhibit for others, including our enemies.
Which leads me to this week. Depending on when you read this, there is either an election about to take place or that has just taken place in our country. There are people on both sides of many issues who feel passionately and strongly about what they believe is the right path forward for our nation. And likely, you have seen something in the past weeks or days or perhaps even these past few hours which reminds you of the polarization that has come about in this country. There may have been accusations or smear ads or even conversations among family members that have become heated exchanges. And this is just in the realm of politics.
There are families who are struggling to love one another in the midst of interpersonal conflicts. There are people who are being discriminated against and held back from being valued members of society or in their careers. There are people who are struggling to live in their own skin because of low self-esteem, depression, or any number of mental health issues. There are those who are seeing their lives fall apart because of decisions they have made or that someone else has made that have directly impacted them. And on and on the list can go, right? Perhaps you are one of these very people. Maybe someone you know is one of them.
And Jesus reminds us that not only are we loved by God, but that those of us who are followers of Jesus are called to also share that love with the world. The world who so often turns its back on God. The world that stands counter to the way of the Kingdom of Heaven. The world who knows well the power of violence, hatred, greed, and division. And it is that world that Jesus died for. That world that Jesus sought to love. Not because it deserved to be loved, but because it is God’s world–God’s creation.
And so this week, bring a little bit of love to this world. Bring a little bit of love to your friends. And bring a little bit of love to your enemies too. For this world knows well how to sow division and abuse power. But what this world needs is the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.