“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same…
Earlier today, I wrote a message to the congregation I serve using this same picture. I reflected on how when you put a tea bag into hot water, you begin to see what is “inside” drawn out into the water – the flavors, the colors, the scents that are within the tea bag. I talked about this in connection with Lent. Amazing how just a few hours later, this same picture can have a very different meaning. A few minutes ago, I read the following blog post about a Christian’s response to the brutality that we continue to see in parts of the Middle East.
Why ISIS Causes Me to Struggle with the Gospel by Zach Hunt
I follow Hunt’s blog and normally the reflections are about the goofy ways that we Americans take Jesus and turn him into things like velvet paintings, cute little statuettes, and so forth. I was not expecting the post I read today. As I read it, I found myself agreeing with him in the struggle. I read about the latest publicized atrocity in the Middle East – the execution of a group of Egyptian Christians yesterday and made the mistake of clicking one of the links in an article that showed what seemed to be blood flowing into the water near where this took place. As I read Hunt’s article, I thought of this picture I took this morning and how the first bits of color that I saw seeping into the water were streams of crimson.
I have also been reading a book by Henri Nouwen this week called “Letters to Marc about Jesus” – a collection of letters Nouwen wrote to his young nephew to talk about his faith. The latest chapter just kept going over this same question of loving our enemies. He writes:
Whenever, contrary to the world’s vindictiveness, we love our enemy, we exhibit something of the perfect love of God, whose will is to bring all human beings together as children of one Father. Whenever we forgive instead of letting fly at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another…in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible; we are diminishing violence and giving birth to a new community.
Like Hunt said, its easy to do when we are talking about political opponents or people who we just don’t get along with. Its another thing when we struggle with how to love those who, like us, are created in the image of God, yet…