Epiphany 7 C Love Your Enemies
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In our Gospel reding today, Jesus continues His Sermon on the Plain. And notice, His sermon today is all about love. Jesus opens with a bold statement. Jesus said: “Love Your Enemies.”
Let me stop here. Do you have enemies? I don’t know if I have any enemies, but I guess one can never be sure. I don’t think anyone is out there trying to harm me. And I don’t think anyone is out there trying to kill me. And so, the command to love my enemies would seem not to apply to me.
But wait a minute. When I stop and think about it, God seems to be saying: “Not so fast Paul. Look at what I am saying.” What if I soften this command a little and ask: “Who rubs you the wrong way? Or who annoys you or makes your life difficult?
I think we all would agree that we do indeed have enemies. So, what are we to do? Jesus said: “Love your enemies.”
Now, when we think of love, we often think of red hearts, cupid, roses, pearls and of course diamonds. Diamonds are after all, a girl’s best friend. But the love that Jesus is talking about is not some fairy tale concept. Notice that in the text today, love includes a number of concrete actions.
Here is what love looks like in the text. Do good. Pray. Bless. Lend without expecting repayment. Be merciful. Don’t judge. Don’t condemn. Forgive. Give. Did you just see that these are all active statements? The old saying is true. “Love is indeed a verb.”
And notice what love is not. Love does not mean you have to like your enemies. And love does not mean you have to hang out with your enemies. Rather, to love your enemies means to put their well-being first. And to love your enemies means putting their feelings and opinions above your own.
And this is not an easy thig to do. After all, some people are more loveable than others. And enemies are, by definition, people you find difficult to love.
Jesus says as much when He declares: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you. Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies.” Luke 6:32-35
Loving your enemies, therefore, is more than a reciprocal relationship. If someone gives you five dollars and the following week you pay back the five dollars, that is pretty easy. The measure is equal. Even sinners do that.
But Jesus calls His disciples to show love in unequal measure. The type of love Jesus advocates breaks this “tit for tat” cycle. Jesus states: “If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt for them.” Luke 6:29
I think you would agree with me when I say that God is a very bad accountant. His accounts do not balance. Even though human nature wants everything to be equal, God gives, and gives, until His love and mercy is overflowing.
And the Good news is that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love. Jesus preached this sermon not just with Words but with His whole life. St Paul wrote: “God demonstrated His love for us, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
When you were God’s enemy, Jesus loved you. When sin separated you from God, God still loved you. And not in some fairy-tale way, but through concrete actions. John 3:16 states: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
My friends: “Through the Cross Jesus loved us in unequal measure so that from His overflowing love we can go and share His love with others.
Of course, this type of love does not make sense to the non-Christian. For the non-Christian, life boils down to the “survival of the fittest.” And there is no incentive to give back anything more than an equal measure. And society teaches us that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
But when God is added to the equation things change.
And how have things changed. Jesus healed the sick and comforted the needy. He prayed for His enemies even as they were crucifying Him on the Cross. Jesus blessed all sorts of people. Remember the beginning of the text today. Jesus told us to bless even those who curse us.
Jesus lent without expecting repayment. He paid for your sins and did not expect anything in return. He showed compassion and mercy to a large crowd when He fed 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
Jesus taught us not to judge when He saved a woman from being stoned to death. The Bible informs us that Jesus came not to condemn the world but save it. And Jesus said over, and over again to everyone who would listen: “Your sins are forgiven.”
And so, the challenge that we have today is recognize and identify who our enemies are so we can bless them with the love that God abundantly bestows upon us from His never-ending warehouse of Grace, and Mercy and Love. May God give us the strength to follow the way of the Lord so we can share His gifts to us with those around us. Amen.
Let us pray: God of compassion, keep before us the love you have revealed in your Son, who prayed even for His enemies; and in our words and deeds help us to be like Him through whom we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.