On Loving Our Enemies

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Sam 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Luke 6: 27-38
Deacon Larry Brockman

It’s a hard teaching, isn’t it?  Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.  It runs counter to our human nature; the innate tendency we have for self-preservation.  Indeed, from the very first, we all tend to think of ourselves.  So, just how do we overcome that self-centered focus and why is it so important?   

I think St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians this morning help.  Paul contrasts the first man- Adam with the last Adam, Jesus Christ.  He says the first Adam became a living being.  And what do we know about the nature of living beings?  That a living being has natural instincts.  And so, that living being strives to meet self-needs: food, water, comfort, affection, entertainment, and pleasure instinctively, and kind of in that order as one basic “need” after the other is satisfied.  Basically, our instincts for self-preservation motivate us to suppress anyone and anything that gets in the way of the satisfaction of our self needs.   

But you know what, when all of our “natural” needs are met; then we basically become bored, don’t we?  We ask inside, “what’s next”; and even, “what happens when I get old and I die”.  We begin to think about the spiritual, things that transcend our nature because all of us hope that we will live forever.   

But Paul makes it clear that the spiritual did not come first.  First, we become familiar with earthly things just like Adam.  And that is necessary for the self-preservation of life itself.    Then Paul says the last Adam came into the world.  Paul says that last Adam is spiritual.  Let me repeat precisely what he said: “The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven”.   

And so Jesus brings an answer to these nagging questions- what’s life in our natural world really all about; and what happens after we die?  Jesus tells us about the spiritual realm in which there is no time.  Jesus tells us about the Kingdom of God and that Kingdom lasts forever.  Jesus tells us that such is the destiny for all who believe in him and follow him.  There, in the kingdom of God, all who belong to it will be happy and content forever and ever.   

Yes, we believe that Jesus came amongst us- the spiritual assumed a human nature to give us a roadmap for getting to the Kingdom of God when we die.   

Jesus’ entire life was one of self-giving; not self-satisfaction.  Jesus bore hardships and a painful death at the hands of his enemies.  Jesus gave everything he had; turned the other cheek; and loved his enemies.  Jesus left us the Gospel as a way of life.   

And this part of the Gospel gets to the heart of the matter because Jesus just comes right out and tells us that we must love everyone, even our enemies.  That’s what it means for us to transcend from a creature of this earthly world and grow spiritually so we can be a citizen of the kingdom of God.   

Why this? Well first because God said so, and that should be enough.  We must all accept the fact that God’s understanding, his knowledge, his judgment, in other words, His wisdom, are far above anything we are capable of conceiving.  The Bible tells us that first and foremost God is love.  And so, we who are made in his spiritual image and likeness need to love as He loves.   

God chose to create everyone and everything out of love and God chooses to keep loving all of his created beings because God is always there to forgive them and welcome them back, no matter what they have done.  God wants all of us in the Kingdom with him.  And so, out of honor and respect for God, and in obedience to his word and commands we are called to do the same. 

That’s really why David did not take revenge on Saul when he had the chance, isn’t it?  David said as much when he recognized that God chose Saul as his anointed one.  And no matter what Saul did to David, out of honor and respect for God, and knowing God’s desire that Saul be saved, David would not kill him and interrupt that process.   

In fact, there are many stories of conversion by folks who did much harm to Christ and his Church.  St. Paul is a primary example; for he persecuted the early Christians before his Conversion.  But there are so many others, even in today’s world- like the Turkish radical who shot Pope John Paul II; like the person who accused Cardinal Bernardin of sexual misconduct.   

All of us have people in our lives who we just don’t care for.  They may gossip on us; scheme against us; rub us the wrong way; and hurt us in many, many ways.  But they are all part of God’s plan for his Kingdom.  As hard as it might be, we just have to cooperate with that plan.  We can’t always like them; but we can love them.  After all, love conquers all.

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