Season 9 - Week 1
“Making enemies into friends”
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28)
Growing up during the Northern Ireland Troubles, I decided to follow Jesus as a 17 year old. When I read “Love your enemies” I did not need to think too hard about what that meant and who they were. Yet, for maybe thirty years I was what I would call a passive peacemaker. I was against the violence. I wished for peace. Prayed for it, even. Yet, I wasn’t doing very much about it.
These words of Jesus are a radical challenge, an other-worldly attitude towards your enemies. This is not just passive non-retaliation, this is actively living in a way that benefits the conditions of your enemy. It is serving your enemy. It is loving your enemy. It is doing for others what God has done for us, in Jesus.
The Amish community live this out in their everyday lives. Their idea of forgiveness is to reconcile with the enemy to the point where you make them a friend!
In 2006 Charles Roberts entered an Amish Schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and shot ten young Amish girls, killing five of them dead.
Within hours of the shootings, the Amish had visited the killer’s wife and family. They not only told them that they forgave them but they actually set up a charitable fund for the killer’s children.
Love for the family of the killer of your children. This is loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate and mistreat you. Forgiveness for the Amish is not about wiping some objective slate clean. Forgiving is a loving act that seeks to build friendship with those that they should be at enmity with. Every Thursday night Charles Roberts’ mother now reads and prays with a severely brain damaged little girl her son shot.
This kind of mercy and love is at the heart of the Christian faith. God doesn’t only forgive us… he reaches out to build relationships with us. When we find ourselves in spaces where there is need of reconciliation we find ourselves in places where we can get closest to the heart of God and with opportunities to follow our call to follow Jesus.
God’s love led him to action. He didn’t just talk about his love. He didn’t just believe it as an idea. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). There was nothing passive about that. We don’t follow Jesus into ideas… but to action. Revolutionary action.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt 5:9)
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Where do you experience conflict or a lack of peace in your life? Is it within your church, your family, your friendship group, your neighbourhood? Can you think of ways in which you could be pro-active in seeking peace rather than leaving the status quo as it is? Be inspired by the radical humility of the Amish community.
Lord, lead us close to your heart, to be about what is closest to your heart that you might make our hearts like yours. And give us the courage to act from that heart, and to actively work for peace. Amen