It’s easy to love people of your own kind. We love the people who look like us, talk like us, act like us, believe like us. It’s easier to dislike, or even despise, those who are not like us, especially those who hurt us. And we don’t always need much of a reason. Hate is really not all that difficult for us. In fact, it’s often our first reaction toward people who aggravate us. Whether it be politics, religion, sports, etc., people can get pretty riled up. Battle lines are drawn and opposing sides go to war. If you don’t agree with me, then you’re my enemy. I must utterly destroy you. This war often plays out on social media. Someone posts something controversial. Someone disagrees. Other individuals chime in. Before long, there’s a full blown war of words that rarely leads to meaningful dialogue with the goal of understanding. No, the conversation typically turns into, “You’re an idiot!” “No. You’re an idiot.” There is no more agreeing to disagree. There’s no such thing as seeing past our differences. Either you’re on my side and, thus, are my friend, or you’re against me and I hate you with every fiber of my being.
I don’t need to tell you that we are living in very divisive times. The battle lines have been drawn. It’s white vs. black. Gay vs. straight. Police officers vs. African-Americans. Republican vs. Democrat. And where battle lines are drawn, there is stubbornness, there is blindness, there is ignorance, there is prejudice, and there is hate. Part of the reason is because it’s easy. It’s easy to stay locked in your own little world, with your own views and opinions, only listening to those who agree with you, and only looking at things within your context. What’s not easy is this:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:43-48).
It’s easy to be like everyone else in the world. Love those who love you back. Love those who agree with you. Love those inside your own little bubble. But Jesus says, “That’s not good enough.” Actually, what He says is that there is nothing honorable in that whatsoever. Even the world does that. Even the most despicable human being understands the principle of reciprocity—love those who love you. Jesus says, “Do what’s difficult. Love those who don’t love you. Love the ones you despise. Pray for the people who want to kill you.” Jesus even defines who our enemy is: the people who oppose you and try to hurt you. The people who are hostile toward you and have harmful intentions. The people who persecute you. And Jesus says, “Love them. Bless them. Do good towards them. Pray for them. Why? Because of who you are, and because of who they are. Human beings are not the enemy. They’re the mission field. As long as I choose hatred over love, I am just as sinful as the one I oppose.
I hope you will join us at the Oldham Lane Church of Christ this Sunday as we continue our series examining the difficult teachings of Jesus. May the Lord bless you and keep you!