People thought Jesus was crazy – or maybe they hadn’t really heard him correctly the day he preached that “Sermon on the Mount” (MT 5-7). He was certainly a charismatic preacher who drew people in easily by his powerful words and the way he treated people. On this day, however, he crossed into the territory of the outrageous with a challenge to his listeners.
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. (Okay so far) But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” That’s just ridiculous. How can you call someone your enemy if you love them and pray for them? Impossible, right?
That was obviously the point but we still don’t understand the depth of meaning in his words. We say things like: “Well, I can love her but I don’t have to like her.” That’s rather absurd, don’t you think? But how could Jesus be (still) asking us to love everyone? What about the tyrants, murderers and other individuals who perpetrate the horrific crimes that make the news every day? How is it possible to love them?
I admit that this is one gospel passage whose essence still escapes my embrace but I do believe that when we achieve that ability to forgive and truly understand the breadth of God’s love, the world will truly be saved. I need to trust that such a possibility exists and that I can be part of the realization. The only way forward as I see it, however, is consistent prayer and imaging of ourselves as light-beings, bringing God’s love to the world. Unless we believe that, it will never happen. And if we continue to say we believe it without the sustained practice that will effect a change, nothing will be achieved.
Start small with acts of kindness and prayer for someone in your life whom you avoid as often as possible. One by one, accept those “enemies” and then move on to the bigger challenges on the world stage. It’s the only way for all of us – starting now!