During preChristmas evenings, I took a break from watching the love stories that seem so romantic during the season and happened upon three movies based on true-life stories. Big name actors played key roles and I was fascinated. The stories all came out of World War II. A subtle theme was dealing with people thought to be spies because either they helped the Russians who were Allies at the time or helped to defeat the Germans who were the known enemy. The movies challenged my definition of who the bad-guys were. So often we define the enemy as that person who disagrees with us or who is on the opposite team than us. I bet many of us can still chant our high school cheer from football games!
Jesus challenges our concept that bad guys are to be defeated, beaten. He calls on us to love our enemy, love those who persecute us. Really????
“43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)”
Jesus gives two reasons. First God blesses the good and the bad. The “laws” of nature and life do not just work for the Christians, the people who believe like us, the smart, the talented or the healthy. Good people die young and nasty people may die old. Disease attacks all of us. Interest rates impact all of us. Refugees come from all econommic classes and ethnicities. Secondly, people of all religions and ethnicities are nice to people who are their friends. The difference is when we are counter-cultural and when we return good for evil. Jesus takes our emotional responses to others out of our own feelings and lhas us ook to God as our model. I heard that explained this weekend as not mimicing Jesus. Our goal is not be be copy-cats of Jesus but to allow his Spirit to work in us so that we become our best selves, the selves God created us to be, where his image shines in us.
This year when we are challenged, may we stop and ponder how we can return good for evil. May we not be so quick to label the other “the enemy.” May we remember to stop and pray. May we desire to be called “children of our heavenly Father.” Blessings as you face this challenge.