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Saturday, first week of Lent

March 11, 2006

Blessed Saturday!

Readings:
Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (you have chosen God and He has chosen you, for holiness)
Psalm 119:1-8 “Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord”
+Matthew 5:43-48 (love your enemies as God loves His)

You can love someone without being in a covenant of belonging with them; without even approving of their actions.

Sound like heresy? Our society would say so. The old adage of “love the sinner, hate the sin” meets with utter incomprehension. Yet it’s at the heart of today’s message from Scripture. Jesus tells us to love as God loves, to love our enemies as He loves His, making His sun to shine and His rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. Yet this same God emphasizes that there are conditions built into our relationship with Him. We are commanded to observe with our whole heart and soul all the statutes, commandments and decrees of our agreement with the Lord. He will love us no matter what. His sun will shine on us and His rain will fall whether we’re obedient or not. But He will not approve sin. It will break our relationship with Him.

That works both ways. We are to love our enemies as God loves His. That is one of the terms of the covenant. If we do not love, we will be cut off from Him. But that doesn’t mean we approve of our enemies’ sin or even that we necessarily enter into relationship with them. God doesn’t approve of their sin, and we are called to be like Him. Similarly, that sin has wounded, broken off or prevented whatever relationship they might’ve had with Him, so we shouldn’t be too surprised if it gets in the way of their relationship with us too.

So what does it look like to love an enemy, if it doesn’t mean being approving and in relationship? Well, love is doing what’s best for another, even at a cost to yourself, and the best good of any person is Heaven. To love someone is to point them toward Heaven. That may mean pointing them away from hell, away from sin, by thwarting the evil they have in mind. It certainly means praying for them. Jesus said so explicitly. As God sends sunshine and rain, we are to meet whatever human needs we can. As God always seeks our repentance and return, we need to be receptive to developing a healthy relationship with an enemy if they make strides toward spiritual health.

In short, loving our enemy means getting our eyes off of ourselves, and the hurt we’ve suffered, long enough to have compassion on the wounded souls of those who have injured us. One powerful way of doing that is to offer up the suffering our enemies have inflicted on us, in union with Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the Cross, for the good of our enemies’ souls. When we do this, our suffering becomes spiritual treasure. The things that are truly good for the souls of our enemies, the things that will point them toward Heaven, are ultimately good for us too.

May God help us to grow in the wisdom and courage we need to love as He loves.

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