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What do you do when Jesus says to love your enemies?  Here’s what I preached yesterday:

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

This is not an easy passage of Scripture.  It’s not easy to read and it’s certainly not easy to preach about.  Especially in light of all the things that go on in the world around us.

I’m going to make you uncomfortable here.  I want you to think about someone who you could classify as your enemy.  You know, someone you really don’t like.  Maybe that guy that cut you off in traffic.  Or worse – someone who has hurt you, shamed you, or wronged you in some way.  Get their face in your head.

Now let me ask you – what do they deserve?  What should happen to them?  If it’s that guy who cut you off in traffic, does he deserve a one finger salute?  Of a few choice words?  Or at least a honking of the horn?  You’d be justified wouldn’t you?

How about someone who has hurt you?  Or wronged you?  What do they deserve?  I bet your imagination can go wild with that one.

Let’s get a bit a more controversial.  Who are our national enemies?  I guess it depends on what time period you ask about.  The British were our enemies early on.  What about today?  Iran, North Korea.  Does Russia fit into that category?  Here’s one that definitely fits – ISIS.  They have stated that they want to kill us.  That classifies as an enemy, doesn’t it.

But what this passage of Scripture where Jesus tells us to love our enemies?  What do we do with that?  If we are followers of Christ, we can’t just ignore it, or push it aside because we don’t like it.  We have to deal with it.  So what do we do with it?

The passage sounds crazy doesn’t it?  It sound like Jesus doesn’t understand the world at all.  Yet I think Jesus understands the world very well.  He’s someone who grew up in a country that was occupied by the Roman empire, whose people had been in exile in Babylon, conquered by Persia and Assyria, and were slaves in Egypt.  He knows the history.

Most of human history has been the story of humanity killing each other.  If this isn’t the definition of insanity, I don’t what is.  And yet we claim that Jesus saying something different of how we should relate is crazy.

Here’s some more bad news.  Sin is more than just the things that we do – it goes deeper than that.  Sin is a broken relationship – a broken relationship with God.  And because of sin, we are enemies of God.  That sounds pretty harsh doesn’t it?  What do we deserve?  The wages of sin are death.  Damnation.  That doesn’t sound so good does it.

Yet, here’s the good news – there’s this thing called Grace.  I heard a wonderful definition of grace this week that fits perfectly with this whole discussion.  Grace is not getting what you deserve.  Rather Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.  Let that sink in for a moment.

Because of Grace, we don’t get what we deserve – eternal death and damnation.  Because of Grace, we get what we don’t deserve – God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.  We are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism.  We receive God’s Good News in the Word.  We receive Jesus in the palm of our hands each week, and consume him into our lives.  We get what we don’t deserve.

And in our Gospel lesson today, what we hear is Jesus telling us that because we receive grace – not getting what we deserve and getting what we don’t deserve – Jesus is calling on us to go and treat others in this same manner.  Even those who are our enemies.  Even those who would kill us.

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

Amen.