Friday, January 8, 2010

Love thy enemy…

Because you, probably, didn’t grow up in Colorado, you can’t know how big it is for me to take this week’s vacation. Like last year, we’re meeting another married couple for a week-long ski vacation. These are pals from seminary- she’s a pastor, he’s a construction manager. [Random, but related story- When I told this to one of our members, who will remain unnamed, she responded, “Shane, don’t you have any friends who are hookers?” “WHAT?!?!” I responded. And she explained, “Well, you’re always spending time with other pastors. I just wondered if you had other kinds of friends.” “Oh! That’s what you meant,” I answered. “You caught me way off guard. But be warned, since you went there, I’m quoting you in an upcoming letter.” And so I did. Just another reason I love my job- the unexpected things Plymouth Creekers come up with!]

Anyway, the major change from last year is that this time we’ve decided to forgo Colorado for a week in Lake Tahoe, California- site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, in case anyone forgot. And like I alluded to above, this is a big step for me. Growing up in Colorado, I spent countless hours blustering and bellowing to any within earshot that no skiing in North America could compare to the Rockies. And that was double true for California! For some reason, the mythology of the ski slopes I grew up skiing included a belief that overcrowding was always a function of vacationers from Texas and California (which we felt justified a special disdain for those states). Then, my sister moved to California, and my Colorado-inspired, passionate denunciations of the West Coast only increased in antipathy and volume.

I, of course, had never skied in California, nor had I tested whether the California-tourist hypothesis held water. But really, that was beside the point. Sometimes your loyalties to one place or thing aren’t rational or well reasoned. They’re visceral, instinctual, the product of love and upbringing, not careful analysis or intellectual acuity. So if you told Younger Shane that one day he’d intentionally bypass a Colorado ski trip for…gasp…California. Well, let’s just say you’d have to bring tissues to wipe his nose, and have patience as he tried desperately to overcome his self-disappointment.

It’s a humorous image to ponder, and mostly tongue-in-cheek, of course. But those memories and the impending vacation have me thinking about ‘enemies,’ and especially Jesus’ quote above. Whenever I’m tempted to consider Jesus an everyday guy who never wanted to mix things up, I force myself to remember this quote: “Truly you’ve heard it said, ‘Love your friends, but hate your enemies.’ But I say unto you, ‘Love thy enemy, and pray for those that persecute you.’” It’s a remarkable claim, right?! Radical, even, and not always welcome. I guess when Jesus claimed God’s love was available to all people, indiscriminately, he really meant it.

So what does it mean to love your enemy? Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Pretend your enemy is your friend.” That would be foolish, and untrue, and Jesus believed in truth. Nor does Jesus say, “Ignore your enemy, and hope s/he goes away.” That wouldn’t help, because if your enemy is a true enemy, they won’t ignore you, even if you ignore them.

No, Jesus instructs us to love our enemies, and love is an active verb. We’re called to engage these destructive forces and people, albeit constructively, hopefully, and wisely. Can you both fight an enemy and love them? Is it responsible to do otherwise?! I know people whose greatest enemy is addiction. How do you love that enemy? You fight it, of course, though Jesus likely meant people, rather than psychological forces… And what about these recent terrorist attacks, or attempts. Love that enemy? On what grounds? To what end?

No answers today, just comments I hope provoke ideas of your own. Send your thoughts my way. If I get enough, I’ll write a follow-up that includes our collective wisdom on this thorny topic. In the meantime, may your week be lovely, and may you love all you meet. Even your enemies, whomever they are. In all things,

Grace and Peace,

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