One of the core sets or collections of teaching for Christians is that which is contained in Matthew 5-7. It’s called the Sermon on the Mount, since it was delivered on a mountainside. It’s some fantastic teaching, really worth a read sometime.
The way Jesus taught was revolutionary to his listeners, since ‘he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.’ He didn’t mess around. He told it like it was:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt 5:43-44)
It sounds a good idea. But what if I can’t muster up enough love, even for my neighbor? Now, I’m not so naive as to assume that what my culture tells me is love, a feeling of fondness towards someone, is simply what Jesus meant here – though that fondness is included. To love, for Jesus, always seems to provoke action. Loving someone is the reason for being devoted to someone, to obeying them, seeking to please them.
Loving enemies seems a good idea, but for me it seems a vast mountain to climb.
What about when my neighbour unwittingly disrupts my plans with something they want me to do for them, on a whim? Or when I am overworked, my skills abused and my well-being is neglected? Or when people only want to know me for what I can provide them with?
How can I be loving to even my neighbour?
Let alone my enemies.
When Jesus had been raised from the dead, he sent the Holy Spirit to those who believed in him. I have written previously about the love which the Spirit enables believers to share, though now I have come to realise the significance of this for me.
I lack love.
And I struggle to remain caring, remain involved and committed when I suffer abuse or rejection. And my heart often seeks to repay my enemies blows with a swift punch to the face. Yet, love is always a gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is good news for me. What a glorious vision, when one day I could love so much, that I would even pray for those who persecute me! For now, perhaps, it is for me to remember that I am limited on my own. And my love is not unconditional. And to recall that caring for those that hate me does not come naturally.
Thank you that love is not my responsibility
but is the work of your Holy Spirit.
And I am sorry for striving to love in my own ability
Forgive me. I am a limited human being, with small amounts of love to give,
You are vast, unending, spanning beyond eternity,
Cause me to love my neighbour, my enemy and the persecutor.
That’s your promise, your responsibility.