Reflections on Matthew 5:43-45
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
In addition to praying for those I know, love and agree with, that I pray especially for those I do not agree with, those who perpetrate evil, injustice and divisiveness in the world. I pray that God will heal their brokenness and open their hearts to His love. I also pray that God will help me understand what role I can play in furthering His love and justice in the world.
I also pray that religion will cease to be used to separate, divide and exclude people and instead be used to unite and include people. I firmly believe that God is a God who loves everyone and wants righteousness in His world – righteousness being defined as being right with your family and your neighbor, all your neighbors in the global community. (Marie Johnson)
In January Lakeshore’s Bible Study groups read the Kairos Palestine (KP) document, a letter from Palestinian Christians that references Jesus’ teaching on love of neighbor and enemy. KP argues that we are called to love our enemies but not allow them to mistreat us. Challenging injustice through love entails creative, peaceful resistance of oppression through actions of civil disobedience and refusing to participate in the structures of oppression. Below are some excerpts from KP, which offers profound reflections on embracing Jesus’ teachings on love of neighbor and enemy.
Love is seeing the face of God in every human being. Every person is my brother or my sister. However, seeing the face of God in everyone does not mean accepting evil or aggression on their part. Rather, this love seeks to correct the evil and stop the aggression…love puts an end to evil by walking in the ways of justice.
Resistance [to injustice] is a right and a duty for the Christian. But it is a resistance with love as its logic. It is thus a creative resistance for it must find human ways that engage the humanity of the enemy. Seeing the image of God in the face of the enemy….
Resistance to the evil of occupation is integrated, then, within this Christian love that refuses evil and corrects it. It resists evil in all its forms with methods that enter into the logic of love and draw on all energies to make peace…. We do not resist with death but rather through respect of life.
[The goal of campaigns of peaceful resistance] is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice. Through our love, we will overcome injustices and establish foundations for a new society both for us and for our opponents. Our future and their future are one. Either the cycle of violence that destroys both of us or peace that will benefit both.(Allison Tanner)
These hard to live out words of Jesus bring to mind a saying that the late Mark Hatfield (United States Senator from Oregon) often used. “God gives each one of us a task. God does not ask that we succeed at that task but God does ask that we not lay it aside.” (Jim Hopkins)