Our scriptural lesson is perhaps the hardest we can be given.
Last week, I talked about Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Plains (or on a level place). It was the Blessings and the Woes. It was the Grand Reversal, a theme throughout the Gospel of Luke.
Our scripture this morning is a continuation of the Sermon on the Plains. It is the same discourse (teaching) and preaching to that same crowd. Yet, our lesson is not only a foundational part of the Gospel of Luke but the scriptures as a whole:
That is Love. However, Jesus does not leave it at “love thy neighbor as yourself”.
The Gospel of John shares Jesus’ new commandment to “love one another” as he first loved us.
This new commandment removed the loophole of ‘since I do not always like or love myself, I do not have to always like or love my neighbors’.
Our Gospel takes the love up a notch with ‘love your enemies’.
LOVE. YOUR. ENEMIES.
Our ‘countdown’ video this morning was an excerpt from a Martin Luther King Jr. speech. He was speaking about Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies. He had bared witness to and was the victim of prejudice.
If we tell ourselves that prejudice based on race or ethnicity, religious faith, our gender (biological sex and gender identity), our sexualities, and our age does not exist today.
We are deceiving ourselves. These prejudices are sin.
If we say that we are without sin, we deceive ourselves.
I was blessed to be raised by a single mother, who I think raised me well.
I was raised in a home where I was taught that judgement of another is wrong and to pre-judge is even worse.
I was essentially given a test of three questions to ask myself:
- Are they hurting you?
- Are they hurting someone else?
- Are they hurting themselves?
If the answer to all three questions is “no”, then live and let live.
I believe I am blessed to have grown up in a home where that was the norm.
I am a nerd. I purchase college level courses to willingly listen to in my free time.
I have been listening to a course on Saint Augustine’s Confessions, which is a large body of writing that heavily influenced Western Christianity especially an Augustine monk named Martin Luther.
Augustine defined sin, not as an action, but as a corruption. He taught that God created all and created it as good, but sin is corruption by misuse. When the professor said that for Augustine chaos and disorganization is a corruption of (good) order and therefore sin, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) had never heard truer words.
Admittedly, I have OCD. I have been diagnosed. I accept it and I know my triggers.
The primary trigger is chaos and disorder. When chaos ensures, well in the words of a Matt Kennon song…
some people piss me off
make me mad as hell
they don’t care who they’re hurting
what rug they’re jerking out from someone else
it gets under my skin
makes me grit my teeth
they don’t think about the cost
some people piss me off
I confess it happens. In fact, it happened on Friday night.
I went to the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati (Ohio) for the Eric Church concert.
We arrived in Cincinnati. We took the exit and traffic was at a crawl. We know that in such traffic people drive their cars aggressive where they should not and chaos ensues. My anxiety was primed and I was becoming angry.
We get into the parking garage where parking attendants are instructing me to turn. I began to turn and I have to brake while a group of people jumped in front of my car. There were two who had crossed, another standing in the driving lane looking down playing on his phone, and another who was lagging behind. I yelled a few not-so-nice things, which I will not repeat here because I cuss like a sailor. I had not realized my passenger had the window rolled down. Although it probably would not have changed my words, it does explain the look they gave me while moving out of my path.
We are parked. We get out of the car and walk to the arena. There is a significant line, and although lines are not my favorite, I can handle standing in a line.
Someone within the arena secretly opened a side door. There was no security or scanning of tickets, but a mob flooded into the arena. The people now behind us in line said “my parents raised me too well, I just can’t do that.” I turned around and said, “Right! My mom did the same thing”.
We are still standing in the line, but it is not moving because people are pulling their friends from the back of the line and bringing them to the front of it. At one point, two men were walking past when one said “it is” and the other replied “we are not cutting in line”. I replied “actually it is”.
As we get closer to the entrance, we notice two separate ‘lines’ feeding into the four doors and metal detectors. A man is standing between these two ‘lines’ shouting “there are no lines, fill in this gap.” Again, I had a reply which was “there are supposed to be lines, what do you think this is the Daytona 500 turned into a demolition derby?”
Apparently the people ahead of me in line thought I was humorous and I needed a mega-phone, in order that more people could hear me.
There was chaos.
There was disarray.
I was pissed off.
My friend was amused and said “I have never seen you that mad at people”.
We deceive ourselves if we think that loving every person is easy.
We deceive ourselves if we think that liking every person is easy.
We may be deceiving ourselves, but we are not deceiving the world.
We all have our triggers that challenge our ability to be friendly to other persons.
This is part of being the sinful (and beautifully flawed) human beings that we are.
Thankfully, God still loves us and works with the Holy Spirit through us despite it.
Although not easy, as I told the youngest among us, we are called to love ALL people.
It might be our close family, loved ones, and friends who are usually easy to love.
It might be our neighbors or ‘strangers’ we meet on the street.
It might be bullies or those in the mob who flooded into the arena or who cut in the line.
As the Dali Lama said:
“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do no harm”.
There are times when our most loving response is to do no harm AND to wish no ill.
When I am working with such scriptures, I share a cautionary ‘side note’:
If there is abuse (physical, emotional, mental, sexual, financial, and spiritual)
in any relationship, I will not encourage you to stay in that relationship.
Love them from afar, do not wish them ill.
May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us and
may God have mercy on us
for the sake of Jesus the Christ and his teachings.