My son, you gotta love him. Any time you say something to him that he doesn’t like, the first thing he will say back is “Wait, What?” Like he didn’t hear you. He has been doing that for a long time. Back when he first started saying that at about 8 or 9 years, I would get angry because I just thought he was not paying attention. I mean he was standing right there. What do you mean what? Can you hear?
It has only been in the last couple of years, that I have come to understand that he has heard me all along, he just does not like what he hears. “John take out the trash. Wait What? John clean up the game room. Wait What? John clean up your room, Wait Where is that?
It’s kind of like seeing something you don’t expect to see, and you have to take that double take, Wait what did I just see. I don’t believe what I just saw.
Last week in my sermon, I talked about how Jesus literally came down from a high and lofty place with his disciples onto level ground with literally hundreds, if not thousands of others. from all over the place, people who were Jewish, gentile, sickly, injured, deformed, possessed with evil spirits and he walked among them, he talked to them as if they were important and special and he healed many just by basically showing them that they were loved.
I talked about how important that is for all of us as disciples and especially as apostles those who are sent out, to demonstrate not just in our words but our actions the same kind of care that Jesus showed then. That is our responsibility as believers and followers of Christ.
Now I know that message might have been a tough one to hear, not because I think there are some in here who are mean spirited and would refuse to do that, but I know for a fact that we are all human beings and it is a struggle to step out of our comfort zones and cross that bridge to connect to someone who may be different than ourselves in whatever way you may define different. For some it is race, for others it is economic class, for still others it may be social status or sports or politics.
I know a man, who is a Virginia Tech fan, who literally cannot stand UVA or their fan base. He more or less tolerates them. He is pretty much the same way in his political views, maybe even more so. I won’t say which he is, it is not important.
In fact, after listening to him for a while, you might get the impression as I do, that this is not just about sports or a political difference of opinion, but that he considers the other side a true enemy.
Well, all I can say is, if you thought that hearing last week’s message was tough, after you hear what Jesus has to say this week, you are going to sound a lot like John, “WAIT, WHAT?”
What Jesus tells us in this week’s message will challenge us to the core. To love your enemy. Yes, you heard me right. “Do good to those who hate you.” I Beg your pardon. “Pray for those who abuse you” You want me to pray for who? You get the idea.
Jesus challenges all of us, not just preachers and little children to practice the art of love even to those we consider to be our enemies. Those who we at least feel like are directly opposed to us, if not us being directly opposed to them.
And I will be the first to admit, that there are people who I would rather not have to deal with. Whether it is their philosophy of life, or their personality and disposition is off putting, or they just annoy the heck out of you. Or maybe as I said, you get the sense that they really do not like you for some reason.
Either way, going out of your way to show them love, or to share Jesus’ notion of love with them can be very hard to hear. WAIT WHAT?
But here is the thing. I know, perhaps as you know, that this can be done. Is it easy? No, at least certainly not always. But it is possible. If you believe in Jesus, you know that it is possible. For Jesus loved even his enemies. After all he died for them just as much as he died for you and me. Scripture teaches us that at one time we were all enemies of God because we have all been sinners, and if not for God’s grace we would all still be sinners, enemies of God.
And what is grace but God reaching across that great divide in love through Jesus Christ, to show and share his love with us, even though none of us deserve it.
Well, that is easy for Jesus to do right? After all he is Jesus, God’s love in human form.
But what about people like you and me? What about our society in general?
No doubt we have seen in the last month or so, racial tensions rise once again over the release of photos of our Governor appearing either in black face or the KKK robe in his Medical College year book, or the confession that our Attorney General made also of wearing black face and the stir it has created not just in Virginia but nationally and even internationally. OR even of our Lt, Governor and the accusations against him, and all the stereo-typing that is taking place in the minds of many regarding that.
Regardless of whatever their intentions may or may not have been, regardless of how each of those men may truly feel about their actions personally, the world still sees and feels the bitter taste of a deeply rooted hatred at worst or preferred bias at best, that black and white cannot get along.
For some, they have come to believe that no matter how far we think we have come, there will always be something like this that will drag us back. And that just may be true if we continue to let the sin of hate hold us all captive.
It is certainly a tension we have seen in communities across America with the African American Communities and Law enforcement. Again, whatever the reality truly is, the overall perception is not a good one. Until you run into someone like the South Hill Cop and the children that live on his beat. Did anyone see that on the news this past week?
It was a white police officer whose duties include patrolling an African American community on a daily basis. But he does more than just ride through the community in his police cruiser. To the young black children in that community, he is their hero. Why? Because more than just doing what is expected, he goes so much further. He gets out of his car and where he sees little kids playing, he joins them; whether it is coloring or playing ball, or with dolls, or doing cartwheels, this 15 plus year officer is connecting with those kids in such a way, that they no longer see him as an enemy. They see him as a friend. They call him Batman. And he calls his cruiser the Batmobile because of the neat things it can do.
The mother of one of the kids said, that at one time her daughter and her friends were afraid of cops, no doubt because of all that is seen on the news. But also because of what they had seen in their own neighborhood. But because of this officer and his relationship with them and his Jesus like love for them, treating them like little human beings; They no longer fear him. In fact, before he leaves their development, they come up and give him a hug.
Well, I’ve got one more example. I also saw on the news, the story of a female pastor whose car had been stolen. Her name is Angel Allen. She did manage to get her car back, but when she did, she realized that her most prized possession was missing; a bible that was given to her by her now deceased father. It is the bible she uses to preach from, and to share the good news with. But she said that she was not angry with those who stole her things, all she wants is for her bible to be returned because of its special meaning. In fact, she has and will continue to meet with the three who stole it and pray with them and for them.
You see, enemies do not have to be life-long, in fact, most of the time, we make enemies over the littlest of things, sports teams, political views, preferences over where to eat, or even personal dispositions. We like to draw lines in the sand to keep out those who we perceive to be our enemies even before we give them a chance, before we can see that even though they may be different in some ways, in many other ways we can find common ground. Common ground for instance like faith.
In fact, that is the dilemma that our United Methodist Church faces in the coming week. And I echo our council of Bishops that you be in prayer for it. Because as you can see, be it in our own personal views, or as a community or a nation, we still have a long way to go to follow Jesus command to love one another, even our enemies.
You know, No one is asking you to do an about face on the spot, but if you take baby steps towards the goal of loving others, the way Jesus loved, then you are moving in the right direction. And may God help us and guide us as we make this continue this journey of faith, so that we no longer must stop in our tracks and ask, “Wait, What?