Week of Nov. 13: Loving as God's people not simple task but right thing to do
By VICKY BRANTLEY and JOHN BRANTLEY
Scripture: Matthew 5:43-48
Lord, give us grace to pray for our enemies and to forgive as you forgive us. Amen.
A reporter was interviewing an old man on his 100th birthday. "What are you most proud of?" he asked. "Well, " said the man, "I don't have an enemy in the world."
"What a beautiful thought! How inspirational!" said the reporter.
"Yep," added the centenarian, "outlived every last one of them."
We have to do more than simply outlive our enemies.
Jesus calls us to “forgive our debtors.” It is not a simple task, but doing the right thing is rarely easy.
I Pray For You
Unless we are called upon to pray aloud, most folks find it easy to pray for those we love and for those in our fellowship. We print prayer lists and offer intercessory prayers for the “who’s who” of those who are sick, those who are grieving or experiencing other loss, and those who are struggling with life’s challenges.
We are less likely to pray for those who are our enemies or those who we perceive as enemies. We may pray like the person Jaron sings about in his song Long Road to Love, “I pray your brakes go out runnin’ down a hill. I pray a flowerpot falls from a windowsill and knocks you in the head like I’d like to. I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls. I pray you’re flyin’ high when your engine stalls. I pray all your dreams never come true. Wherever you are honey, I pray for you.”
Along the same line, when we were children, we would take turns saying the blessing at meals. My sister always prayed a simple prayer of thanksgiving, and then she would ask God to forgive my brother and I for wrongs we had done to her. These examples point us to listen to our conversations with God with greater care.
Christ asked his followers to love their enemies and pray for them in a spirit of love. During Desert Storm, members of one community who had loved ones involved in the conflict met at the church every week to pray together for the safety of those fighting and for a quick resolution to differences.
One night the pastor asked for prayers for Saddam Hussein. There was an audible gasp among participants. Then the minister said, “Who needs our prayers more than this man we call our enemy?”
We are all members of the family of God, if we act like it or not. Christ’s instruction is that we pray for our enemies in a spirit of building a relationship that draws us closer to God and to each other.
Make Some Enemies Your Friends
It is easy to tell someone to learn to see the world from your enemy’s perspective. The challenge is to not allow their evil to make you the same. We share the same sun and rain as they do. Someone has said it is the mark of real maturity when you can hold two opposing views in your mind at the same time.
Our nation was built on this very premise: that we can tolerate each other’s differences and find room for everyone, even if their ideas are not best for the county. A democracy respects differing views and seeks compromise when we need consensus to move forward for the common good. Before we make any political stand the responsibility of the church is to model how to build Godly relationships for all nations.
The gift of separating church from state business is that we can set God’s as our priority. One of those priorities in growing toward spiritual perfection is to build bridges with our enemies.
Being whole, complete, and non-fragmented is a good way to understand spiritual perfection. You can’t be fine with yourself when you have enemies. Agreeing to disagree is not when one person stops arguing; it is when we recognize that we can both have different opinions but we can still see the best in each other as brother and sister in Christ, instead of dividing our church and community.
One way to move our “more perfect union” into a more perfect relationship is for the people who follow Christ to be living examples of relationship mending in Christ example. Our printed prayer lists could also name relationships with enemies we are working to reconcile rather than blaming them for our condition. Growing toward spiritual perfection demands we hear the concerns of others to find ways to build each other up in Christ.
Take Action: The next time you hear someone talking sound bites of political rhetoric of any perspective, ask them to explain, in their own words, what most concerns them and to give examples of what they are fearful or passionate. There is the common ground on which to repair or build relationships.
“Your love, O God, has called us here, for all love finds its source in you, the perfect love that casts our fear, the love that Christ makes ever new.” Hymn 647, The United Methodist Hymnal.