I believe one of the most difficult challenges presented to early followers of Christ was to love their enemies. In Luke 6:27-28 Jesus says, “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” The most common human response to this is “why?” Why would we want to love our enemies? Why would we bless those who curse us? Why pray for those who abuse us?
I don’t have many enemies but there have been people in my life that have not treated me with the respect I believe all humans deserve. If I had my wish, all people who disrespect others would receive the justice due to them. Jesus, according to the Gospel of Luke 6:27-38, shared some pretty difficult to swallow directives on how we are to respond to people who treat us poorly. I am almost certain that the crowd hearing Jesus’ message was questioning his directives as well. I am also certain that some even become an enemy of Christ as a result.
This weekend will mark a pivotal moment for the United Methodist Church. Delegates from all over the world will meet and it may determine whether we will fracture due to divisions over same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy. The United Methodist Church is as a democracy with branches much like the United States government. I, like many of you, grew up believing this is the best form of government. I still do, but I have also begun to see that there is an unfortunate outcome to a democracy, in that it creates “winners” and “losers”. After an election you often have one group elated because of victory and another mourning over defeat. We become separated because of our feelings of hurt, anger, and animosity. Unfortunately, when the stakes are high the decision often becomes, if things don’t go my way I am leaving. Separation has happened before in the history of the United States and in the Methodist church over the issue of slavery. Right now in the United Methodist Church, it could happen again over the issue of sexuality.
Depending on the outcome of the General Conference this weekend many will be questioning whether or not we can work, worship, and minister alongside our enemy. Maybe “enemy” is too harsh of a word. I chose to use it in this context because for what other reason would you choose to leave? If you still consider them your friend, brother, sister, or colleague then would you not stay together? During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was criticized for his benevolent treatment of southern rebels and his response was, “Do I not defeat my enemies when I make them friends?” Whatever the outcome for General Conference I urge you to not make enemies of those that have opposed you in thought or opinion, choose to make or keep them as friends.
Join us this Sunday at 9:30 AM for Sunday School or 10:30 AM for worship as we continue this discussion.
In God’s grip,
Pastor Chuck Church