Summary: Maybe we should ask, what harm can be caused by not loving our enemies; does it really work against us, does it do us that much harm.
This sermon was delivered Gordon McCulloch to the congregation at Holy Trinity in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 24th February 2019; Holy Trinity is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
“Please join me in a short prayer.” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen. (Ps. 19:14)
One of the most difficult commandments of Jesus is to “love our enemies”; … and if you are like me, you will find that most of the time it is impossible to do. In fact if you can love your enemies just as Jesus commanded, please show us how you do it.
Oh, and yes, we have all heard someone glibly saying, “oh yes, we should all love our enemies, I do not have a problem with that”, but let me qualify this, we are not talking about a recent falling out with someone, or the ability to deal with an awkward person, we are talking about those who are really mean, and are really out to get us; and hell bent on destroying us for some reason or another. How then, can we say “I can love my enemies”.
What I am getting at here is that if we are not careful, “showing love towards an enemy”, is usually or somehow communicated as fear … and when a bully or an enemy smell that fear, it somehow encourages, strengthens or empowers them into hurting us more. … Is that not correct? … And if you don’t relate to this, then you have never really been tested.
Jesus is saying here, that when are being treated so harshly, and so unfairly, we are being tested, and it is a horrible experience; it’s an experience where all hope can leave us, weakens us and … when we have nothing left to fight with, we are directed to “love our enemies”, because … because somehow … that is where the victory lies whether we understand it or not.
And to make matters worse, as I said earlier, we are not talking about a simple fall out, (although it includes that), I am talking about trials that can last for years and years, and so endurance and perseverance are also needed as well as that love for our enemies. This is truly horrible topic, but it can be a horrible world in which we live, however we are not to worry because Jesus tells us in John 16:33, that “In the world we will have tribulation: but to be of good cheer; because he has overcome the world”.
Jesus managed to overcome a world that hates their enemies; but it is our world, and surely then it’s a natural thing to do … to “love those who love us, and despise those who hate us” … … but then Jesus tells us, “we are not of this world” because we are in him.
And when I hear things like this, I worry … because I have no trouble at all loving my family, my wife, my loved ones, and those whom I enjoy their company … (ok not all the time, we do have our falling outs), but at the end of the day we still love each other, and pull ourselves together against our problems, encouraging one another, and getting on with life, which is fine, like everyone else.
But there are those whom we don’t love, and it is to them that Jesus says, see those people whom you love, and look forward to being with; I want you to treat your enemies the exact same way, and love them just the same … even though, they may not love you back.
It not natural is it? … There is a very funny scene in the movie “smoky and the bandit” where a weary truck driver pulls up at a road side café, (do you know the scene, I love it), and where the waitress had just served him, when three tough looking, unshaven leather jacketed bikers, you know the Hell’s Angels type come in, and decide to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger and chips off his plate, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it and spill it over him.
I ask you, how would you respond to that? … And even though I am giving a sermon loving our enemies, I still love what happened next. … Well, this truck driver simply and calmly stood up, paid his money and went on his way.
Then one of the bikers said to the waitress who had witnessed the whole scene, “not much of a man that”. … She replied, “he is not much of a driver either … he has just run over three motorbikes”.