“He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.”
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” -Psalm 133:1
Blah, blah, blah. So I’ve been looking at the love your enemies passage trying to find loopholes (because, as you know, that’s what Jesus would do. He was ALL about the letter of the law and not the spirit of it). I’m bouncing back and forth between verses like “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) and the expert in the law asking for loopholes, like “who is my neighbor?” (and getting the Good Samaritan parable for his troubles). So in fully “expert in the law” mode, I’ve rationalized that it’s easy for me to live in unity if I cut off relationships.*
This is a simple workaround that JUST skirts those pesky “carry his coat an extra mile” type sentiments that define what it means to go out of your way to love your enemy. I’m all about convenient theology. Look how easy this is: you only have to love your enemies if you’re around them, ergo, don’t spend time with them! Oh, I can “pray” for them (for the double win, I can proclaim that I’m praying for them and look twice as spiritual).
Unity is as simple as the relationship in front of you which means you have to be in their presence to love them and that’s its own commitment. I have little enough time for the people I love today.
True unity means to deny the values of our culture, our sense of independence, our sense of self-reliance. And there are plenty of valid reasons to not pursue unity: our own sense of rightness, our own woundedness (even hurt feelings from people not pursuing you), doctrinal differences, or even apathy. All perfectly valid reasons to cut off relationships (and even allow your heart to hardened).
To love our enemies is the most mature form of love and the hardest crucible to test and refine what it means to live out one’s Christianity. In short, it’s the crux of what it means to love. It means we have to die to ourselves, our wants, and our egos. Conjuring love up doesn’t work (the same way some folks like to conjure up “forgiveness”). Acting loving isn’t enough.
But I ain’t there yet.
Don’t get me wrong, for the bulk of us, we define enemy as someone who says mean things to us or unfriends us on Facebook, but nonetheless, let’s wallow in our convenient spirituality. It sure beats doing the hard work of continuing to pray for God to change our hearts. Anyway, I’ve got no lost love for people I don’t like or no longer wish to be around.
This message brought to you by the Broaddus Institute of Theological Convenience, where the inmates run the asylum.
*Think of it as a break up with all of the attendant feelings: All those years we spent together, all the good times and feelings, all wasted now, overshadowed by fighting and ill will. Was it something I did? Am I in the wrong here? And the thought, in hindsight, that maybe I should have left a long time ago.