But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. ~ Luke 6:27-28
Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love. ~ Ghandi
Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep on being friendly to the person. Just keep loving them, and they can't stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they'll hate you a little more at that transition period. But just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
In our current political and religious climate, do we still believe that love can truly free us and redeem us?
I'm sure there are reasons why many don't. Perhaps for some it is because it feels more comfortable and self-affirming to be right than to let go of our beliefs, opinions, and anger in a loving way.
Perhaps for others it's because they have't experienced love from the place they were meant to: from family. So loving is a skill they haven't learned yet.
For some it may be that they have been taught to hate through experience and influence.
And maybe for others it just feels scary: what if they get rejected?
Jesus does not promise here that if you love your enemies that they'll love you back. Maybe, with hope and time they will. I've experienced this. Maybe not with what we'd think of as a real enemy, but with someone with which I had a difficult relationship. Over time and practice, love broke us both down.
Loving is a action, not a noun here. We can love without wanting to become best friends with a person - or even really liking them.
What the act of loving does over and over in scripture, that Martin Luther King reminds us of, is transformation.
The more I love, the more I am loved.
The more I love, the more relationship thrives.
The more relationship thrives, the more the world is transformed.
It takes practice. And sometimes we have to start small. Practice with the person driving the car who cuts you off. Practice with the co-worker who annoys you endlessly.
Practice with the boss who didn't give you a raise, or the parent who criticized you at the holiday dinner table.
Then practice with the person in the other political party, or the other religion, or the other sexual orientation, or the other race.
And finally practice with a person who betrayed you or lied about you or persecuted you.
Each time you'll find yourself transformed - redeemed - ready to love again and to love even more.
Lord of love, you have loved us so completely even when I'm sure we ticked you off more than a little bit! Help us to learn to love just as graciously! Amen.