Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Love Your Enemies

"You have heard that it has been said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven because his sun rises on the evil and good and it rains on the righteous and unrighteous." Matthew 5:43-44

I hear the radical call to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. I wonder who Jesus had in mind as he calls his followers to a perfect, mature righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). I wonder if we are misusing this text?

Is my enemy a national enemy I've never met deemed an enemy by a particular government? Perhaps. That is certainly the assumption behind those who use this text to support the call to love a national enemy. (btw...I'm certainly okay with giving Bin Laden the 'enemy' label!)

In the midst of all the buzz however, I'm compelled by Jesus' little sermon to consider a more personal application. I wonder if this statement forces me to see my enemy as a person I know, Joe Smith, who does everything he can to slander me, speak all kinds of evil against me, insult me, and work against me?

Jesus' words here are rightly considered as we hear of Bin Laden's death. I am just a little hesitant to see those who work against America as "my" personal enemies. While, as a US citizen, I am bothered when others attack us, I refuse to directly equate America's enemies as my enemies. It frustrates me when any allegiances to America (or lack of allegiances) are equated with allegiances to Christ. I consider Jesus Lord rather than America. If I understand the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, my prayers need to desire God's kingdom to come on the entire earth, even to the exclusion of America.

So, in light of Bin Laden's death, my allegiances to Christ may compel me to pray for the Iraqi moms who continue to lose their sons in war against my nation. My allegiances to Christ may help me to consider the possibility that Bin Laden was equally made in God's image. Was he even a child of God? That kind of perspective (and just the question itself) may be blasphemous to some. At the same time, I wonder if this is exactly the perspective of another perfect righteousness Matthew points us toward?

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