Do you feel like people out there hate you, or that they would if they knew what you really believe? If you wouldn’t go so far as to say “hate,” do you increasingly feel like many would dislike you and would be happy to spell out a long list of the ways you’re wrong?
I think this has been a new experience for some of us (or taken to a new level) in the wake of 2016 Presidential Election, but this phenomenon of having someone clearly against you–that is, of enmity–is not new. In fact, Jesus knew enmity and had a lot to say about it. He told his disciples:
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
Of course, the phrase “on account of the Son of Man” gives us pause, and it should. Sure, there is some talk about how “Evangelical Christians” are ruining this country (considering myself an Evangelical Christian, that is indeed one of the things stressing me out). However, the political animosity in our country is more complex than that: Most of the hatred is not about people who are not Christians hating Christians for being Christians. It’s not as clearly religious as it is in some countries. Many conservatives are angry with many liberals for their politically liberal attempt to follow the Son of Man (Jesus) and many liberals are angry with many conservatives for their politically conservative attempt to follow the Son of Man. It’s complex.
Luke 6 doesn’t tell us who’s right. It also doesn’t suggest that no one is right and no one is wrong. However, if you (yes, you) are convinced that you’re following Jesus rightly and reviled for the ways in which you’re following Jesus rightly, then if you’re right the reviling is not a sign that you’re wrong. In fact, people reviled God’s prophets. There may well be a reward piling up for you in heaven.
Yet, having affirmed that his hearers may well be on the right side of the thing, Jesus goes on to say this about those who are on the wrong side:
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Far from legitimating haughtiness, Jesus tells us that the measure of being right is to follow him, and that if we follow him we will love those who are wrong.
I had to think about that for a moment this morning. Before reading this passage, I had complained to God that I knew some people who seemed to simply not like me, to like me less than ever. I wasn’t sure what to do about this. Should I try to keep those relationships alive? Should I let them concern me? I believe God answered me through Luke 6.
Jesus takes this one step further in the next section of his sermon. Here’s where he gets really practical, giving us something we can do despite enmity, right now:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
In our rush to pull apart the others’ arguments, have we hit the snooze button on confession? I worry we’ve forgotten that no matter how flawed our enemies may be, we ourselves have urgent flaws that are preventing us from being who God wants us to be. Whatever my enemy may have in his eye, I can’t deny, before God, that I have a log in mine.
The world’s priorities, in times of enmity, go like this:
- Try to get my way
- If I can’t get my way, at least convince people I’m right
- If I can’t convince people, at least convince myself that I’m right
Jesus’ priorities, in this passage, are 180 degrees different:
- Follow the Son of Man
- When that leads to enmity, love my enemies
- When I can’t actively love my enemies (e.g., bedtime, breakfast), search for where I’m wrong
As long as we set out to convince ourselves and others and society that we’re right, people will probably hate us for a mixture of bad and good reason. It won’t all be on account of the Son of Man, a good deal of it will be on account of our error and arrogance.
We can start to fix that if we start at the bottom: We must constantly search out where we’re wrong. We must patiently love our enemies. The more we do that, the more we will be following the Son of Man, and the more of our opposition will be on account of him. Then, even when we are counted enemies, we will be counted as Christ’s friends; then, if we receive the crucified one’s “reward” in the world, we can also hope for his reward before the Father.