Love Your Enemies!
In today’s gospel, Jesus does not ask us to believe anything. There is no creed described or dogma to adopt, only a code of conduct. This is how we are now to act as his followers. It’s called orthopraxy, correct behavior or practice, rather than orthodoxy, which is correct belief. Orthopraxy is about how we conduct ourselves in the world we live in. It is about practicing a spirit of generosity. Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr writes that it is important to realize that it is not our perfection that makes us more like Christ, but our compassion. Compassion arises from a recognition of our shared humanity and vulnerability.
Jesus came announcing a new social order and an alternative to the cultures of domination and manipulation. Jesus’ guiding vision, his new ethic, his alternative way of understanding the world is foundational to his teaching and preaching in this week’s gospel. Jesus radically says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you, bless those who curse you, and turn the other cheek.” According to this text, a lack of generosity is a spiritual problem, and until we approach it as such, we will not fully be able to eradicate it. Our own modern-day culture says, “demonize the other, build walls, block those in need, jail and deport those who don’t belong.” But Jesus says, “be compassionate, don’t judge, don’t condemn, forgive and keep on giving.” Our culture says, “consume, condemn, judge, carry a grudge, seek revenge and don’t ever be weak.” But Jesus invites us to radically love the people outside our own inner circle. Love the stranger at the border. Love the one outside our comfort zone, the unknown, the other.
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest, international speaker and retreat leader, uses a computer metaphor to get at the heart of what Jesus is asking us to do today. Dr. Cynthia explains that Jesus is concerned with the transformation from our animal instincts and egocentricity into love and compassion. As we journey through our lives, she says we are constantly perceiving, reacting to, and attempting to negotiate the world around us on the basis of our own ego operating system. This system perceives from a sense of scarcity and keeps track of the score of wrongs done to us through comparison and contrast. If a situation looks unfair to us, it is an infallible litmus test that we are still in our binary mind. Jesus is about transforming/replacing our old ego operating system. Dr. Cynthia writes, “We human beings come into existence with a certain operating system already installed in us. Jesus invites us to make the choice to upgrade our software. If we do, life is going to look a whole lot different.” Dr. Cynthia believes that the challenging words of Jesus we hear in today’s gospel are about trying to completely short-circuit our mental wiring so that we are catapulted into a whole new way of seeing and being. It’s not about right belief; it’s about right practice. Jesus call us to love the person who has hurt us, to be kind to them, to renounce violence and to work for healing and justice. When we admit the truth of our vulnerability and need for others, we can be more “holy” in the sense of being connected and a part of the whole. Today’s gospel is an invitation to practice boundless generosity in all of our relationships: in our families, in our church, and in our world. Are we up for the challenge?
Let us recommit ourselves today by praying for the person we struggle with the most. May we, the Holy Family Faith Community, be open to the wisdom of Jesus and be willing to explore how the tensions and conflicts that so often disrupt our relationships might be healed through love and compassion. May we let God reform our emotions and feelings so that we will no longer need to hold on to feelings of anger or even hate. “Help me, Lord Jesus I pray, to persevere in the same manner when I am hurt, and pray for those who persecute me. Help me forgive readily. May I love without expectations, reservations and limitations. I pray, as I call upon Lord Jesus to abide in me and cast out all revenge and contempt against those who have hurt me.”