Scripture: Luke 6:27-36
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“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” ~ Luke 6:27
If there was ever a time for us to hear Jesus’ words in the passage, we heard this morning from the Gospel of Luke it is now. Like no time in our lifetime, or at least my lifetime, has our society been so fractured and divided.
We need only look at the complete polarization of the political landscapes across the globe: the rise of Trumpism in the US, the growth and success of radical right-wing parties throughout much of Europe, and even the intense divide beginning to show itself here in Canada’s political world. Hatred and division abound in our political domain.
Or we could look at the hatred and prejudice spewed in corners of the media and from the lips of ordinary people targeted at different social groups: refugees, immigrants, the poor, black people, women or Jews. Hatred and division abound in our society.
Or perhaps we can look at the complete breakdown of civil discourse and disagreement, especially as more and more of our communication moves online and factions and positions become so entrenched that no one can talk to anyone any more. Hatred and division abound in how we talk to one another.
Even the Church is guilty of this entrenched division and the growth of hatred in our midst. Churches fighting with churches over who is really Christian, congregations and denominations splitting acrimoniously. We need only look at how we in the Anglican Church have fought with one another, often bitterly and unlovingly on both sides of the debate, over the issue of same-sex marriage. Sadly, hatred and division abound in our how we pray and express our faith.
With all this division and hatred in the world, Jesus’ words from the Gospel of Luke, this morning, are the balm that we need. They are the right words for us to hear, as hard and as challenging as they may be for us and for our culture to truly comprehend them and heed their call – they seemingly hit the spot like no other time in recent memory.
Last week we heard Jesus teaching his disciples about how the poor are blessed and in the midst of this teaching Jesus continued on by telling his disciples:
“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. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt…
But love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:27-29, 35-36
Love your enemies – really? Do good to those who hate you? Give everything to those who demand things from you? Does God want us to be chumps? Does God want everyone to take advantage of us, and for us to be perpetual doormats? Does God expect us to do what is completely unnatural to us? Does he expect the impossible?
“Jesus’ words here are hard, radical and demand of us and the Church generally a lifestyle and set of practices that we find difficult to imitate… So why would Jesus say this? Does anybody really operate this way?” (Scott Hoezee)
The short answer is yes: God does.
God operates this way. God loves his enemies. God gives to those who would take everything from Him. God does good to those who hate him. And that is very good news for us and for all humanity, who more often than not defy God in the way we treat our fellow people, in the way hate and prejudice seep into our hearts, in the way that we destroy and take advantage of God’s good creation.
And because God operates this way, he invites us to do so as well.
God does invite us to do the impossible, he invites and challenges us to defy our very (sinful) human nature that tells us to hate our enemies, to do good to only those we love or those we can benefit from and to give only to those people we can trust.
God invites us and challenges us to love the racist and the bigot who spews hatred.
God invites us to move beyond our fear and hatred of people different from ourselves: from refugees, immigrants and whoever else we are taught to fear and hate.
God invites us and challenges us to love the person who rants and raves and is unable to have civil discourse.
God invites and challenges us to love the political opponent who sows division and even hatred.
Finally, God invites and challenges us to love our brother or sister in Christ who we disagree with so vehemently – to actually see them as our brothers and sisters even if we might consider them our enemies.
And you know what: This is a true miracle that God performs. For all the walking on water, turning water into wine, healing the lame and so forth– none of that really compares to the daily miracle God performs in our hearts, our minds and our souls when he makes us capable of loving that which we would normally find unlovable.
The remarkable miracle is the impossible task which God has performed for millions of Christians and continues to perform in countless people in our day and age. Unlike other miracles, which are incredibly rare to witness (though they certainly do happen), you and I bear witness to this kind of conversion in our lives and throughout history over and over again.
It is a miracle, because left to our own devices we would never choose this lifestyle, we would never choose to make ourselves so vulnerable, we would never willingly seek the benefit and bestow blessings upon those who oppose us and hate us in return.
And yet because God does, we can.
Because God loves us miserable offenders (as the BCP confession so powerfully affirms in the prayer of confession), we are given the ability to love the people we might find unlovable or miserable like ourselves.
Because God loves us even when we do not love God, or love our neighbours as ourselves – we are able to begin to imagine what loving those that don’t love us would look like.
We love, because God first loved us after all, as 1 John says so eloquently puts it.
In Jesus, the world has experienced the infinite depths and breadth of God’s love – in his life, death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit that love has been manifested fully for us.
In Jesus: in his coming to live among us and fully identify and experience our humanity, we have a vision of God’s love for us that is incarnate, in all its physical and fleshy glory – encompassing all of our human experience.
In Jesus: in his brutal death and torture upon the cross, we have a vision of God’s love which bears all of human hatred, all of human sin and disobedience, bears it willingly and does not retaliate.
In Jesus: in his glorious resurrection, we have a vision of God’s love that is victorious over sin and death; we have vision of God’s love which renews the world and which transforms our lives – opening up abundant possibilities for each one of us.
In Jesus: in his ascension to the Father, we have a vision of God’s love that prepares a place for us in God’s kingdom for eternity, a love which we long for as the world awaits the fulfillment of all things in Him.
In Jesus: in his promise of the Holy Spirit, we have a vision of God’s love that empowers us, and makes us willing and able to love our enemy, and do good to those who hate us.
The Church itself, this congregation of Grace Church even, is a daily reminder that God brings together people so different from one another, and invites them to love one another even if they wouldn’t in a million years imagine such a reality.
As we learn from Jesus through our reading and engaging with Scripture we learn more and more about the God whose love created and redeemed the world. God’s story becomes your story.
As we are formed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our worship, through our songs of praise, through confession and the receiving of God’s life in the bread and wine of this Eucharist – we learn what it means to be loved by God and what it means for God to love the person worshiping next to us. God’s life becomes our life.
As we are sent out by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are invited to practice what we have learned and what has been formed in us. We are invited each and every day to go out into the world and love the person that hates us; to seek their good even if they won’t seek ours; to give with no expectation of repayment. God’s mission becomes our mission.
As we do so, Jesus promises that we become children of the Most High, we grow into the life that God has prepared for us.
Just like children that learn from and emulate their parents we are invited to follow the example and live the life our Heavenly Father has laid out before us.
That is the everyday miracle you and I are part of. Following Jesus, we are promised a lifetime – nay an eternity – of these miracles.
Even as we stumble and fall, even as we sometimes fall back into our old sinful ways of unloving, God’s love for us is constant, God’s love for us as shown in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is drawing us further into and further up into His life and His vision of a world transformed by His grace and love.
Let us, you and me, seek the everyday miracle of the conversion of our hearts and minds. Let us, you and me, seek the everyday miracle that allows us to love the person we deem unlovable. Let us seek the everyday miracle which allows us, each and every one of us in all of our ordinariness, to become children of the Most High, children of a God who loves us and loves the world more than we can ask or imagine.
May God’s love overwhelm you, may it fill you to the brim so you can’t help sharing it with others, even your enemies.
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