“It is not we who change ourselves into the image of God. Rather it is the image of God itself, the very form of Christ, which seeks to take shape within us (Gal. 4:19). It is Christ’s own form which seeks to manifest itself in us.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This Lenten season, several in our congregation have reflected on Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). These reflections have been profound, as people of all ages and stages of life honestly wrestle with these challenging words that our faith calls us to take seriously. If you have not yet read them, I encourage you to do so. The compilation can be found in the Narthex, and reflections are being shared every Monday via the Midweek Message and Facebook.
After sitting with these congregational reflections, I was reminded that love of enemies is not easy, is not natural, and, perhaps, is not even attainable, and yet, the command remains. The struggle to embrace this difficult teaching is a testament to what it means to follow Jesus, as best we are able. It is also a reminder that love is not something we perfect on our own, rather we are invited to open ourselves to the lavish love God pours out on us, and allow that love to flow through us.
The apostle Paul reminds us, in one of our theme Scriptures for the year, what this love looks like: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a). Not sappy or sentimental, nor confined to romantic relationships, love is how we are called to act, as Christians, toward everyone we encounter.
How might we open ourselves to this love, and let love flow through us and out into the world – even to those we consider “enemies” – this Lenten season?
May Christ’s love be ever more fully manifest in us.