BY REV. BRIAN JACK - FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH OF WEST OKOBOJI
"You have heard that it was said, 'love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'"
Yes Jesus, we have frequently in both discrete and indiscrete ways heard it said.
"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:42-43).
What a strange new reality Jesus presents — love for your enemy. Is that possible for people who love hating their enemy?
I tire of the news headlines that are automatically suggested for me or that pop up when perusing social media. "The ________ are ruining everything" or "_________ has messed it all up again!"
It's not hard for you to fill in the blank is it? The answers come naturally (or perhaps unnaturally). What could possibly overcome a culture that knows not what it does, or even worse, knows the wrong it does, but cannot help from being sucked into the same broken and hateful behavior again and again (Romans 7:19)?
At what we've come to know as The Last Supper, who does Jesus sit down with? Who does he choose as his company? The very ones who that same night become his betrayers, his enemies — "In the night in which he was betrayed," (1 Corinthians 11:23-36).
You might hear these words if you come to participate in the meal Jesus offers at many a service where he's worshiped. Jesus gathered (still gathers) with his betrayers for a meal, not in hate, but to show them love even when he knew what they would soon do (abandon him).
In fact the apostle Paul will go on later to say that he loves us so much that he would fill in the space where our names belong.
"For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21).
"The _________ are ruining everything!" "__________ has messed it all up again!" Our name should fill in those blanks! We would like to put our enemies' names in those blanks – but it is Jesus name that fills in those blanks.
His name is where yours should be, your name is in place of his, "__________, beloved child of God." Jesus died and rose that your enemies' names might appear there too. How might hatred find its end, and love for our enemies begin? It ends and starts in the name of Christ alone.