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Love (even) your enemies

February 13, 2024
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Daily Scripture

Matthew 5:43-46

43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Jesus was not much concerned with assigning blame for the bad things that happen in life, but rather with bringing healing. He knew firsthand about the gritty realities of opposition and hatred, tragedy and suffering. But he told his followers that God doesn’t cause bad things to occur, but rather finds ways to bring good out of even those when they happen. Like Pastor Burton, we can move forward in Christ, even after painful or unfair events.

  • How do you understand “love your enemies”? Do you believe Jesus meant altering your emotions to feel more affectionate toward them or reaching beyond your emotions to act for their good? What kind of growth in character and maturity does it take to love your enemies? Jesus said God makes it rain on the just and the unjust alike. How can you become more like God in your willingness to bless anyone who needs it?
  • Pastor Hamilton wrote, “God does not take from us our freedom, nor does God miraculously deliver us from the consequences of our actions or the actions of others…. God does promise to sustain us and force good to come from the painful things we experience in this life.” * Do you accept Jesus’ picture of God, not as a monster who makes bad things happen to us, but as a just, loving, merciful parent? How does your picture of God shape your whole spiritual journey?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, hate is so tempting—and, in the end, so destructive to your purposes for my life. Today (and every day), teach me more about how to love and pray for my enemies. Amen.

GPS Insights

Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Church of the Resurrection.

When I was growing up people used to say, “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.” It was used as a measure for how absolutely horrific something was. At the time I didn’t really think much about it, and even used the phrase myself at times. Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that there is a secondary message in that message: that it’s OK to wish bad things on people. You just have to identify your worst enemies, your bad wishes, and then pass them out accordingly.

WHAT?? Why would I wish bad things to anyone? Even “just a little bit bad” things. Does it make me feel better, do I gain something from the suffering of other people? No, I don’t. I certainly hope you don’t either.

Don’t get me wrong–I can and do get mad. If you wrong someone I love, you will hear about it. I fiercely protect those I care about, but even when I am angry and telling someone how I feel, there is no threat behind it. No desire for bad things to happen to them. In fact, I have learned in many situations the people that I might consider “my enemy” are a lot more like me than I want to admit. In fact, many of those people make the list, not because of their actions, but because of my own weaknesses.

Do I dislike someone because of something they did? Or is it possible that I am jealous of what they did and prefer to find fault with them rather than encourage them?

Did they treat me or someone I love badly? Or is it possible that they were reacting to something we did either intentionally or not?

Am I finding fault with someone because I don’t agree with their opinions, views, or values? Or am I too proud to accept that they base their beliefs on their life experiences, which might be very different from my own?

You see, when I am able to honestly and objectively (as much as my humanness allows) think of the people who I might put in the enemy category, not only are they not the enemy, they are usually just trying to live their own best lives, the same way I am. They don’t deserve my judgement–they deserve my love.

I’m not saying that I am never going to get angry with anyone. And I can’t promise I won’t still react out of envy, pride or selfishness. I am a work in progress and some days there isn’t as much progress as you would hope. But I promise this–no matter what, I won’t wish terrible things on my worst enemy or anyone else.

In fact, this Lenten season I am going to devote myself to focusing on wishing the best things for everyone. Each day I am going to seek people out and be an encourager, be supportive and scatter good wishes. And to make sure I stay accountable, I will write a note daily to someone with my best wishes and prayers.

What if we all committed to forty days of love, without judgment? The ripple from that could change the world!

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Adam Hamilton, Why? Making Sense of God’s Will. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011, p. 20.