Read Luke 6:27-36, here’s a highlight:
“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.“
Forgiveness is hard. And Jesus raises the bar here by describing all but impossible scenarios for us mere mortals. Forgiveness is hard enough when trying to find it for someone we liked or even loved before they did us wrong. But to ask for forgiveness for those whom we would call “enemy?” That’s a whole other level.
It’s hard to dispute that our political landscape is as polarized as it has ever been, certainly in the lifetimes of those of us preparing for the next round of local and national elections, now just 39 days away. The rhetoric is so amped and the media takes full advantage of our anxieties and our strong allegiances. That we might consider a neighbor with a differing political orientation as an “enemy” in this fight, let alone a colleague or even a close family member, is exactly what party leaders and political strategists are hoping for and even banking on.
Let’s assume those hoping to manipulate the process are successful and that we do see these others as the enemy. Then Jesus’ sermon will be even more important to us in the days and weeks ahead, especially the ones that come after Nov. 3. I’m fairly sure that God’s vision for us is not that we all agree to be either conservatives or liberals, democrats or republicans, traditionalists or progressives. But I am certain God expects us to be on the same side, the side of our common humanity.
The way to do this is, of course, starts with a healthy dose of forgiveness. To begin the work of healing, take some time today in preparation. Who has been feeling like an enemy to you lately? Do you remember a time that you didn’t feel this way about them? What has changed? What will need to change for you to move back closer together in the future? What will need to be forgiven for you to see them differently?
My prayer for us as we do this work is that we can move beyond the us/them divides that we’re so good at creating. Instead, let’s find the kind of forgiveness powerful enough to change the labels of enemies back to the labels of beloved neighbor, colleague, friend, and family.
May peace find you this day, Pastor Peter
God of dreams and hope, You spoke to Joseph in his dreams, and those dreams led him to great danger. Yet you used the challenges in his life to save the lives of others. In you, no good thing is accidental. You work in us and through us, even when we are not aware of your presence. Help us to know that you are with us and that only you are capable of turning all evil to good. Amen.