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? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his last Christmas Eve sermon on December 24, 1967. It included these words: “Agape is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return…. This is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Love your enemies.’ And I’m happy that he didn’t say, ‘Like your enemies,’ because there are some people that I find it pretty difficult to like…. I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself… every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear.”* Jesus made a similar point with an “obvious” statement that isn’t obvious at all when we reflect on his point: “[God] makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of your peace. Keep teaching me to trust in the long-term power of love, the world-changing power that makes me a follower of Jesus. Amen.
* “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” in James M. Washington, ed. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1986, p. 256.
** Ibid., pp. 256, 257.
There’s an old saying that “It’s the thought that counts.” I don’t think this is true.
We all know that thinking about someone means nothing if we don’t tell them how we feel. Having good thoughts towards someone is fine but reaching out is the way to show it and take action.
Jesus made it pretty clear in Matthew 5:44 that we are to love everyone, even our enemies. I must confess I don’t think I’m very good at loving my enemies. In this passage of Scripture Jesus uses the Greek word agapao, the verb form of agape. We know that a verb is an action word, so to give love means to take action.
Henri Nouwen tells the story of an older nun who did not like a younger sister and was secretly irritated by her. She never let on about this but continued to act in kindness towards her and from all appearances grew to love her. When the older nun died the younger nun stood up and with tears talked about how she felt so loved and accepted by her and she knew that she was her favorite.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people...It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both...Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.” May we as the church and the body of Christ continue to love all people while creating a community that reflects the light and love of God.
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