Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Less Sexy Love

Editor's Note: This reflection is a forthcoming piece in the Lenten devotional series by and for Young Adults organized by The Episcopal Church. I share it now because some young adults from St. Francis and I are gathering tonight - February 14th @ 6p.m., - at the Memorial Union's Rathskeller to informally discuss a love less in keeping with the commercially popular Valentine-sentiment. It's the love that is seemingly essential to the existence of saints and the convictions of martyrs (like St. Valentine): love for one's enemies. This reflection is my own internal springboard and reference point for approaching that conversation.   JRM+ 

Meditation for Palm Sunday, March 24
Scripture: Luke 19:28-40

“After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem” (Lk 19:28)

The “this” that Jesus said, before he went on ahead, up to Jerusalem, is the familiar parable of the talents, which ends with the nobleman’s ominous lines: “‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence’” (Lk 19:26-27).

The connection between these earlier words and today’s reading swells with an unresolved tension. Plainly, the nobleman’s words do not prepare us to see the heralded, new king slaughtered. But God’s rejection of the evil wrought by “these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them,” lands squarely on Jesus.

Palm Sunday reveals Jesus as at the same time God’s elected and rejected one. This is meant to be Good News for us, but it is still hard to see Jesus slaughtered in the presence of God and God’s enemies. Harder still to hear the words on our lips – “Crucify him!” – and realize that we are God’s enemies, the ones “who did not want me to be king over them.” 

I do not like to think of myself as an enemy of God, but my not liking it does not by itself make it untrue. I am like the double agent who sometimes forgets whose side she is on. But I have found grace in Jesus’ hard words to his disciples, “Love your enemies” (Lk 6:27).

“Love your enemies” is what we do when we imitate God’s love for us.

Admittedly, I need God’s help to love my enemies. I pray that knowing I need God’s help to love my enemies makes me less of an enemy to God, but who can tell for sure if that is not the double agent talking? 

I used to think of an enemy as the worst thing a person could be, but enemy status has not proved enough to keep God from us and our being found in Christ. Instead, love without expectation or personal gain is arguably known only with the help of enemies to love. So I have learned to ask for God’s help in loving my enemies, and also to pray for more enemies to love.

Maybe loving enemies is how we go up, with Jesus, to Jerusalem. Maybe this is a piece of the surrender, the sacrifice, by which we learn the friendship of the crucified King.

A prayer for today:

God of the cross, sear these words of your Son on the hearts of your people, so we may live the love by which you have called us friends: “…love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Amen.


  1. Sometimes I wonder if we are not called to figure out how to erase the word "enemy" from our vocabulary. For instance, I don't think Mother Teresa had any enemies. When the priest of a local temple dedicated to Kali persecuted Mother Teresa, she prayed for him, and responded with kindness. He contracted leprosy, and was cast out onto the streets by his followers. Mother Teresa took him in and nursed his wounds. Whenever my eldest daughter asks my advice about an episode of bullying she's just undergone, I remind her: what is the best way to get rid of an enemy? Answer: make them your friend. Godly love always wins when we persevere in it.

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  3. Kathia, I share your instinct to ever-respond with kindness and love. So I suspect we are agreed on the most important part. For me, the added question is whether my love for others is gracious enough to allow my enemy to remain my enemy - that is, to remain opposed to me in spite of my love. Generous love without the requirement or expected outcome of reciprocity or my changing the other. Love wins, but not necessarily because it knows it will.

    1. Ah... I see. Allowing others to claim they are my enemy, and not trying to change their mind about it,as a way of showing unconditional love. Interesting!! I never thought of it that way. But, on my part, I could never agree to use that word for them, even if they need to define our relationship that way, because the words we use affect how we act towards others. Even though we act like enemies of God, and some of us refer to ourselves (or our relationship) in this way, I do not think He views us, or our relationship, in the same perspective. "If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself." There's a paradox (:-D) here, understood only on the other side of eternity: God's immeasurable, unconditional love in relationship with us despite our freewill and rejection. "His blood be upon us, and our children", indeed. Thanks for your reply; good stuff to help me find peace as I pray for my oldest brother who won't speak to anyone in our family.