Summary: Loving our enemies
We are infected by the world. We live in and are bombarded, moment by moment, with the message that our injuries own us. They must be avenged.
W.H. Auden wrote: I and the public know, What school children learn, Those to whom evil is done, Do evil in return.
That is the way of this world. It is the law of nature. After all, will the squirrel forgive the cat that chases him up a tree? How is the dolphin going to feel about the shark that ate his friends? We live in a dog, eat dog world. And we are taught from our very earliest days to relate to each other that way.
Disney movies, the ones Anne and Sam are watching, many of them have villains. And Anne will point at Cruella DeVille and say, “She’s a mean lady. We don’t like her!” I’ve come to understand what it is they do from the very beginning. They teach me how to hate. I love action movies. I love football and hockey. I love great stories that get my blood running. How they do it is in the first scenes of the movie, the first moments of the game, the seeds enmity, the hard hits, the hatred, is planted.
The thing is, it is what we teach our kids. That is how we show them to live and relate to each other. If someone disses you, blow their head off.
I am so blessed to have many of the kids of our youth group hang around our house and our children on a regular basis. And we do have fantastic kids in this church. And sometimes, they lose their minds and start playing with a baseball in the house and knock something over. Sometimes, they forget that we have small kids and in their enthusiasm will knock one of them over or be too loud or eat something they shouldn’t have. But none of that bothers me. That’s just growing up and being sensitive to your environment. But there is one thing that we occasionally hear that really distresses us. It is the seemingly innocent bantering about who they like and who they don’t. It’s not who they like that bothers me. It is when the laundry lists of all the reasons why you don’t like someone comes out. “Did you hear what he said? Did you see what she did?” And it seems so innocent – just the kids hanging out, bonding with each other, talking. But I realize, that our kids are playing at hatred. And that, no matter how innocent it seems, is worse that just dangerous. It’s not that it could lead to something. It is something. Do you see what I mean. We are trained in hatred. And it fills our hearts and minds. Enmity is the primary motivator in many of our relationships, in many of our lives. And that is sad.
With all that training, we have the tools for dealing with someone when they turn their hatred and evil upon us. It is not just their hatred, either. Maybe it is just something they know or something they have. Maybe they know our sin. That is enough to hate someone. When they turn their riches, their health, their good looks on us. That can make an enemy out of us. Erma Bombeck wrote, “Lord, if you can’t make me thin, then make my friends look fat.” They become the enemy.
There are three ways to live in this world. The first is to respond to good with evil. That is a demonic, evil way to live, but it happens all the time – that’s what Erma Bombeck prayed. The second is to respond to evil with evil. It is called lex talionis, an eye for an eye. That is an legal, ethical way to live. The world teaches these first two ways to live. And people live their lives by “he said, she said.”
The problem is, hatred, enmity, vengeance, the anger I feel when I hear of a drunk driver killing children, the games that people live their lives playing in their relationships, in their families, with their so-called friends, it consumes them.
If there is one thing I could change in this neighborhood, it is the way people relate to each other. I’d like to change that in this whole world. There is so much enmity. And it becomes a huge cycle. And pretty soon, the Palestinians and the Jews have centuries of killing and reasons for their hatred. And we have opinions and family members and enemies. And the cycle goes on, and on, and on, and on.
I know that there are some of you whose lives are characterized by your injuries. Those injuries, physical, emotional, spiritual, they fill your heart. They are all you know. Either fighting back or closing yourself off to future harm, offense or defense, that is all you know.