Note: This series is based on resources from the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church.
This Sunday, we continue a three-week Lectionary series that explores ideas of Discipleship and of expanding the church into the community. The Gospel text continues where we left off last week, and the section begins with one of the most difficult instructions imaginable: love your enemies. Take a moment to think about what this means.
Our culture seems to be increasingly divided. Our political culture makes it difficult to talk to family members over holiday meals. Religious convictions in The United Methodist Church are coming to a head in the upcoming General Conference. In these most challenging times, do we love our neighbors? Do we pray for those who mistreat us?
Luke 6:27-38 (CEB)
27“But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 30Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 31Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.
32“If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 34If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 35Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. 36Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.
37“Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”
Consider these questions:
- Jesus’ commandment to “love our enemies” is (pick as many as apply):
- a fanciful notion;
- a good idea;
- inviting harm;
- a practice I need to get better at;
- something I work hard at;
- comes naturally to me.
- How does Jesus’ commandment to “love your enemies” make the Christian community unique? How does your church demonstrate God’s love to your community? Are there new ways you feel God is calling your church to demonstrate God’s love to the community?
Post-Sermon Update on 2/26
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
As I add this follow-up to Sunday’s message, I confess that I am conflicted. Sunday’s message was about loving those with whom we disagree, about loving those from we feel persecution. And as I watch the livestream of the ongoing Special Session of the General Conference, I confess that I find it difficult to feel – much less express – any kind of positive feeling toward those who continue to speak words of spiritual violence.
And yet I don’t believe that Jesus’ words are mistaken here. We are called to love those who do us this kind of harm. We are called to see in everyone the image of God. And in the midst of heartbreak and grief and anger, it feels impossible to do so.
We will have to be transformed by God’s grace if we are going to love our enemies. We will have to be transformed by God’s love if we are going pray for those who persecute with words and actions of hatred.
So what will happen in the days and months following this General Conference? It will take time to see. But I know this: God is still love; Jesus still saves; the Holy Spirit still breathes into us.
Consider these questions:
- When you have felt spiritually harmed, how have you responded? What was the end result after everything was said and done? Was your initial response in line with whatever was the end result? Explore this more fully…
- What do you dream about in terms of faith and spirituality? In other words, what can the Church (regardless of denomination or affiliation) look like and be like that it doesn’t now?
- How have you felt transformed in showing radical love? What were the circumstances?