Love for EnemiesLuke 6:27-36 (NRSV)
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 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.
I saw a post on Facebook the other day that said, “Peanut butter and what?” To which many people responded with all kinds of answers: peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and fluff, peanut butter and honey, peanut butter and banana. I actually know someone who makes peanut butter, jelly, and onion sandwiches!
(Okay, folks, not to make you too hungry, but I’m going to invite you to use that first sermon box in your bulletin and think of what your answer to “Peanut butter and what?” Might be.)
Now the question didn’t say what’s the right answer to “Peanut butter and what?” It simply opened a conversation. “What do you like?” Or, “What do you make?” It was interesting to hear all of the ideas: peanut butter BLTs, peanut butter and mayonnaise (I guess that’s a Southern recipe!), peanut butter with apple slices and cinnamon, or of course, as my daughter has always eaten, just plain peanut butter.
People seemed to be enjoying sharing the things they like. However, it eventually got to the point where judgment set in and people started commenting that the answers given were not what they like. “Peanut butter doesn’t go with onions.” “Peanut butter with mayonnaise sounds disgusting!” “Fluff is not good for you; there’s too much high fructose corn syrup in it.” And of course, there was the “But what if you are allergic to peanut butter?” response. What started as a time of simple sharing of what we enjoy became a full-blown argument. Welcome to today’s world!
I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but over the last few years, civil conversation and outward kindness towards one another have been lost. People tend to put themselves and their opinions first, and they disregard the other. It’s always about what I want and what I like, the way I do things and what is important to me.
Now granted, over the last two years we’ve had to fend for ourselves. We’ve had to make choices for us and our families that may go against what others believe. But folks, my opinions–the things I like do–do not disregard what someone else likes or the choices they make. Now, I don’t eat bacon; but if you like peanut butter and bacon, that’s great! And just because I like peanut butter and honey while you like peanut butter and bacon, that doesn’t mean that we can’t get along and be kind to each other. We don’t need to eat the same lunch, but we can still sit together, and be friends.
The sad part is, it’s not just lunch and peanut butter sandwiches that this is happening with. It’s happening everywhere: in our families, and in our jobs, at our schools and in our communities, among the people that we used to consider our friends, and even in the church. We have strong opinions as to what the next right steps are, whether we should make changes, or whether we should keep things the same. We seem to have forgotten that, as a church and as followers of Jesus, we are called to work together, to truly listen to one another, not in order to simply respond or prove our point, but in order to understand each other and to love one another unconditionally, no matter how different our opinions might be.
In the Bible, Jesus talks about loving others, even your enemy. Can you imagine? Now I don’t think many of us would think of other church members and friends as our enemies, but we may have things we disagree on. There may be other people’s quirks and mannerisms that get on our last nerves, and we may even see and understand the world and our faith through a different lens. But here’s the deal folks: we are still called to love who God created the other person to be and to work together to strengthen our community.
(Okay folks, this one is not going to be easy. Let’s take a look at that next box in your bulletin. I’m going to ask you to take a moment to think of someone that you might not see eye to eye with. Then rather than being mad and waiting for them to change, I want you to ask God to show you a way that you might reach out to them in a loving and caring way.)
Friends, God loves us, even when we really mess things up. God loves us when we’re being annoying and stubborn and even mean. But God came to earth in Jesus to remind us that, though God always loves us no matter what, God is constantly calling us to live differently, to put aside our selfishness and self-centeredness, and to understand that we are all called to walk through life hand-in-hand with our brothers and sisters, not fighting and complaining and looking for the faults in one another, but building up the weak, lifting up the broken-hearted, and loving the unlovable.
Friends, Jesus said, “Listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Folks, I think it’s time for all of us to get back on track, to remember who and whose we are as individuals and as a church, and to remember how we are called not to fight and to argue and to do things our own way but to love, to listen, and to encourage and serve others, even if it’s just a peanut butter sandwich!
My friends may it be so. Thanks be to God, AMEN!