You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
— Matthew 5:43-48
It seems to me that though we hear this word from Jesus, to “love our enemies,” the tendency is for us to think, well, I don’t actually have any enemies. After all, enemies implies war and violence. Most of us don’t actually think about going to war against folks that are different, only excluding them, pushing them away, and trying to forget they exist. Most of us, would likely shy away from a term as extreme as enemy, or hate.
Conflict on every level requires a few things to rise to the level of concern. Primary among them is what sociologist term “the myth of the other.” It is the way we turn others into something less than fully human; we use labels to make them detestable at every level. What if we began to hear this word, not in terms of enemies, but rather in terms of “those people” whoever those people are in your mind? What if we heard Jesus say to us, “you have heard it said you must love our kind of people and hate those people, but I say to you love those people and pray for those who get on your nerves”? It rather changes the way we hear it, doesn’t it?
The hymn, “In Christ There Is No East or West” was the hymn of my fraternity, a fraternity founded in the aftermath of the Civil War to bring together the former Confederate Soldiers and former Union Soldiers. I offer it now as a reminder that no matter what, we who claim Christ are united beyond region, beyond party, beyond . . .
In Christ there is no east or west,
in him no south or north;
but one great fellowship of love
through out the whole wide earth.
In Christ all true hearts everywhere
their high communion find;
his service is the golden cord
close blinding humankind.
Bind up the wounds of our nation, Lord of all the Earth. Grant that we may see each other with your eyes of grace and hear in each other the sound of faith singing through. In the name of Christ, our one and true Lord. Amen.