Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Luke 6:27-36 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Love for Enemies
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.[a] Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Too often Christianity has devolved into having such great concern for a correct set of beliefs about Jesus that not enough attention is given to the teachings of Jesus and what it means to live by them today. Let’s face it: Jesus’ teachings are not easy. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that sometimes it’s easier to focus on what we believe about Jesus than it is to actually follow his teaching in our own lives. In other words, we focus on orthodoxy (“right belief”) and neglect orthopraxy (“right practice”). The thing is, both are important.
This passage is just one of the places where Jesus calls his followers to be like God. He says, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” What a high standard! Love as God loves. Forgive as God forgives. Be generous as God is generous. This is a tough one, isn’t it?
What Does Love Look Like in our Everyday Lives? What does that really look like in our day-to-day reality? The default response, it seems, is to respond to rudeness with rudeness and to politeness with politeness and to respond to hate with hate and to love with love. That is the easy, automatic response.
Jesus says relate to others only as they relate to us, that is no big deal. The challenge of being a follower of Jesus is to love those who don’t love us. To greet and care for those who may not even like us. This kind of love is a pretty tall order, to be sure.
“Love your enemies.” Of all of the statements of Jesus, I suppose that it is that one that stretches us more than any.
For the early Christians, the enemy was no mere abstraction. They encountered the enemy every day as they experienced the brutality of the Roman regime, which insulted them, injured them, jailed them, and fed them to the lions.
For the twelve who first heard these words, maybe the struggle was more subtle, as it is for us. They would have certainly struggled with the oppression of the Romans, but they also would have wrestled with others in their network of relationships, as we do. Wherever two or more people gather for any period of time, conflict is sure to come. And so it seems extremely practical to me that Jesus would have said, “If you want to follow me all the way, then we must discover how to love those who do not agree with us. We must, indeed, learn to love those who even work against us. If Jesus had not expected us to have some enemies, why would he have instructed us to love them?
Why Love Our Enemies? For one thing, hate generates hate.
In Martin Luther King’s sermon “Knock at Midnight,” Martin says, “My brother A.D. and I were traveling from Atlanta to Chattanooga on a dark and stormy night. For some reason travelers were very discourteous that night. Hardly a single driver dimmed their lights. Finally A.D. who was driving, said, ‘I have had enough’ as he powered his lights back on bright. I said, ‘Don’t do that, you are going to cause a wreck and get us killed. Somebody must have sense enough to dim their lights, to break the cycle of hate. If somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful lights of love, we are all going to plunge into the abyss.”‘
For another thing, hate destroys the hater. A Chinese Proverb puts it succinctly, “If you devote your life to seeking revenge, dig two graves.”
So, how can we love our enemies? First, we look to Jesus. Jesus resisted evil with all his might and taught his disciples to do likewise. On the day evil nailed Him to a cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Second, we pray for strength and pray for the other who has hurt us. To love as Jesus loves takes strength that often goes beyond our own ability.
Third, among the goals we have in our lives, we can make it a goal to love intentionally. There’s no good reason to settle for hate if we are capable of love.
Former Boston Red Sox Hall-of-Fame third baseman Wade Boggs hated Yankee Stadium. Not because of the Yankees; they never gave him that much trouble but because of a fan. That’s right: one fan.
The guy had a box seat close to the field, and when the Red Sox were in town he would torment Boggs by shouting obscenities and insults. It’s hard to imagine one fan getting under a player’s skin, but this guy had the recipe.
One day as Boggs was warming up, the fan began his routine, yelling, ‘Boggs, you stink’ and variations on that theme. Boggs had enough. He walked directly over to the man, who was sitting in the stands…and said, ‘Hey fella, are you the guy who’s always yelling at me?
The man said, ‘Yeah, it’s me. What are you going to do about it?’ Wade took a new baseball out of his pocket, autographed it, tossed it to the man, and went back to the field to his pre-game routine. The man never yelled at Boggs again; in fact, he became one of Wade’s biggest fans at Yankee Stadium.”
Love your enemies. It might change them, and we know it will change you.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster