The title of this week’s E-pistle is “Giving Up Enemies” because this series of E-pistles between Ash Wednesday and Easter is about the weightier things we might forsake for Lent. Giving up chocolate ice cream or the internet might have some spiritual value. But what if we aimed bigger, and rather than denying ourselves for a season, committed to letting go of significant detriments from here on out.
Hence, “Giving Up Enemies.” But the title sounds awfully close to “Giving Up on Enemies!” If by ‘giving up on enemies,’ we hear the suggestion of disengaging from the hurtful effects of enmity or even simply giving them over to God, that might be ok.
Closer to Jesus’ intent is actually “Believing in One’s Enemies.” You might laugh and retort, paraphrasing Mark Twain, “Believe in my enemies! Why I’ve not only seen them; I’ve even met, worked, lived with them. I’ve even been bested by them.”
Jesus is suggesting we believe in our enemy as a person — his or her inherent and sacred value, despite our differences and disagreements. Believing in our enemies is also about not limiting God’s concern and power — despite your oppositional relation, God can still love and work through this person.
So when I invite you to give up enemies, first I mean, let’s cease to deny them. We all have them. That’s why Jesus spoke of them. And why the biblical writers remembered what he said.
And second, giving up enemies is about resisting disrespect: despite your antagonism, honor them. And pray for them.
I heard someone suggest that Jesus tears over Jerusalem were because people understood his message to be about peace in heaven rather than peace on earth.
This week in a clergy meeting, a colleague said, “Remember, the Bible teaches that brothers and sisters are born in adversity.” It occurred to me as he said that, one might respond that if we never got into a fight… without our enemies, we’d all be “only children!”
Finally, from Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow, comes this exchange between the protagonist (for whom the novel is named) and his antagonist, Troy Chatham, an agribusiness tycoon who Jayber fears is destroying the land and the county. It’s the late 60’s, and civil rights and the Vietnam War have torn at America. As to be expected of a man in his professional position, Chatham is a strident supporter to the U.S. and its wars. In the barber shop, Chatham makes it clear how much he hates the Vietnam War protestors:
“’They ought to round up every one of them sons of bitches and put them right in front of the damned communists, and then whoever kills who, it would be all to the good.’
There was a little pause after that. Nobody wanted to try to top it… I quit cutting hair and looked at Troy. I said, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.’
Troy jerked his head up and widened his eyes at me. ‘Where did you get that crap?’
I said, ‘Jesus Christ.’
And Troy said, ‘Oh.’
It would have been a great moment in the history of Christianity, except that I did not love Troy.”
Read Luke 19:37-44. What are the things God is showing us today that make for peace? How could you act between now and Easter to make peace?
See you in church,