Friday, June 6, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 6

Read Matthew 5:21-48.

"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..."

Is there, anywhere in the Bible, a harder saying of Jesus? It's hard enough to love our friends some days, and our neighbors - but our enemies too?

It is worth lingering over. Of course it's a challenge in the macro-cosmic sense, and I think the difference between a bumper sticker that says "God Bless America" and one that says "God Bless The World: No Exceptions." But in practice I find it is much, much harder to love the "enemy" who has hurt us personally.  It's hard when a town is fighting over new schools and your neighbor/enemy stands up at Town Meeting and takes a stand totally against all you believe in. It's hard in a congregational setting when you are trying to work through your understanding of same-sex marriage and the person two pews back is on the opposite side of the issue from you. It can feel very personal.

And it is hardest of all, I think, when couples and families are "rent asunder." I have been reflecting this week not only on  "I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing"  but that has taken our discussions to the larger context of what marriage is, and what the Prayerbook liturgy says (and does not say) about it. One thing it does say is that "what God has joined together, let no one put asunder."

But it happens all too often. And when it does - there is often fear and mistrust and hatred left where there was once love. So what would a practice of praying for our "enemies," both near and far, look like?

Scott Gunn, in his comments on today's text, suggest trying for several days to pray for an enemy, "perhaps a coworker or a relative or a terrorist." He then asks, "do you think it changes your enemy?"

I don't know. What I do know this - such prayer has the potential to change me.

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