Today is Valentine’s Day, and I’m one of the very fortunate and blessed people who have many people to love. My wife, my daughters, my church and family and friends throughout the country. These people are dearer to me than my own life.
And, likely, you have people like that in your life too.
You have people whom you cherish; folks you’d trade your life for. And even though Valentine’s Day is the most fabricated pseudo-holiday we celebrate, it’s never a bad idea to let the people you love know that you love them. So make a point today to say “I love you” to those people.
But I want to give us (the Christians who visit this space) a moment of pause. Why? Because those of us who follow the teachings of Jesus are called not only to love the ones we love, we are also called to love those we might be inclined to hate.
Jesus, in one of the clearest teachings in scripture, tells us, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'” Instruction in righteousness doesn’t get any more perspicuous than that. “Love your enemies.” There. Done. Over. Got it?
Jesus is telling us what we already know: Anybody can love the people they love and hate their enemies, but it takes someone with God on the inside to cut against the grain and love those they would otherwise hate. Even though Jesus is giving us a command, most of us treat it like it’s a nice idea that might be good to get around to…someday!
That’s why, some of our supposed American Christian leaders exhort the church to repeal and replace this basic tenet of Jesus’ to love both our neighbor and our enemy. Terrorists, secularists, those on the “other side” of politics, culture, religion and sexuality are objects to be hated and defeated, rather than the destination of God’s in-breaking love for the world flowing through his church.
In a strange way, these leaders are right in their pronouncements concerning the threat of secularization in America. Our country is becoming more secular; but the church may be leading the way! The failure to love our enemies leads away – not toward – the cross.
So what would a church look like that actually believed Jesus was giving a command when he said “Love your enemies”? Any ideas?
I’d love to hear them.