Summary: This sermon is about forgiving our enemies so that we can truly experience love.
"Forgive Me!" by Rev. A. LaMar Torrence, Pastor of the Cross of Life Lutheran Church
Once again I find the words of Maya Angelou appropriately for my initial response to today’s divine edict of loving our enemies. In her poem, “Lord in my heart”, she writes..
Holy halos, Ring me round,
Spirit waves, On Spirit sound
Meshach and Abednego, Golden chariot,
Swinging low I recite them, In my sleep,
Jordan’s cold, And briny deep
Bible lessons, Sunday school,
Bow before, The golden rule
Now I wonder If I tried,
Could I turn, My cheek aside
Marveling with afterthought,
Let the blow fall saying naught
Of my true Christ-like control
And the nature of my soul
Would I strike with rage divine
Till the culprit fell supine
Hit out broad all fury red,
Till my foes are fallen dead
Teachers of my early youth,
Taught forgiveness stressed the truth
Here then Is my Christian lack,
If I’m struck Then I’ll strike back....
Her words seem to speak the honestly that many of us find deep in our hearts: forgiveness is the hardest Christian discipline to implement in our lives. Oh we know that the good book says to forgive and you shall be forgiven. We know the various nonviolent responses to social injustices that we as Godly people are called to invoke. Yet, inside each and every one of us is the desire to go fist for fist and toe to toe with our enemy. You cuss me. I’ll cuss you. You cut me. I’ll cut you. Deep down inside, we often find ourselves dealing with our demons of vengeance and hate. Come on, now let’s be real. When was the last time you willing walked away from an argument out of love for your opponent? When was the last time you prayed that your boss would get even richer and blessed at the expense of the long hours you put in at work? When was the last time you met hate with love, chaos with charity, conflict with compromise?
The reality of our Christian journey is that we are lacking in the art of forgiveness. We lack the necessary tools to forgive and love those who get on our last nerve. Oh, we talk a good game of love but the truth of the matter is that our love is still at its lowest level – carnal. We have a fleshly love. Our love is based on our passions, loyalties, and kinship. We love because we are loved or to get love in return. We love to get what we want and have our way. Our love is based on satisfying our desires and ourselves.
But the gospel challenges us to seek a deeper love. Tell somebody we need a deeper love. God wants us to seek the highest good from the highest motive. He wants us to go deeper and move up a little higher. To ascend to the heavenly heights we must climb his staircase of love. To reach those pearly gates we must proceed through a divine passage of nonviolence. In this antithesis on love, the divine love doctor himself exposes the reality of our situation. When it comes to love we have a love-hate relationship. And that relationship can fall into three basic categories, three dimensions, or three levels.
First some of us are trapped at a level of hate – that is we hate those who love us. There are just some people who received love but only know how to return hate for that love that’s given. They are trapped a on ground level of hate. There, you may find some of our children who verbalize hate towards parents who discipline them out of love. There, you may find abusive spouses who hate themselves but beat on those submit to them out of love. On that level of hate are the racists who hate minorities so much that they would refuse blood transfusions and organ donations on the mere thought that their donors were people of color. At this first level of hate verses love, you will find folks who regardless of how much love you give them they only know how to give back hate. Ask your neighbor, “are you in that ‘hate your lover’ category?”
Then there is the category of “people who hate those who hate them.” I call it “haters vs. haters”. They give hate for hate. There are some of us who simply hate those who hate us. You don’t speak to me. I won’t speak to you. You talk about my daddy. I’ll talk about your mama. You pull out a knife. I’ll pull out a gun. Hate for Hate. You know. We call it ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Yet meeting hate with hate only escalates to segregation, apartheid, and war. Oh we see it every day: Palestinians against Jews, Kappa’s’ against Sigma’s, neighbor against neighbor. Relatives who have not spoken in years – saying ‘well she never called me, so I’m not going to call her.” Hate for hate. Ask your neighbor; is that your category of love?