Daily Lent Devotional #24 (4/01/2011)

Luke 6: 27-31  (New Living Translation)

27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

Today’s devotional is filled with great wisdom from Henri Nouwen.  One of the topics that he wrote about extensively is the need to radiate Christ’s love to all people, even our enemies.  He was an open pacifist, who believed that violence always led to more violence.  May his message challenge you and motivate you to love like Jesus today and always!

These sayings express not only the essence of nonviolent resistance, but also the heart of Jesus’ preaching. If anyone should ask you what are the most radical words in the gospel, you need not hesitate to reply: “Love your enemies.” It’s these words that reveal to us most clearly the kind of love proclaimed by Jesus. In these words we have the clearest expression of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Love for one’s enemy is the touchstone of being a Christian.

Jesus is the revelation of God’s unending, unconditional love for us human beings. Everything that Jesus has done, said, and undergone is meant to show us that the love we most long for is given to us by God—–not because we’ve deserved it, but because God is a God of love.  Jesus has come among us to make that divine love visible and to offer it to us.

God has become human, that is, God-with-us in order to show us that the anxious concern for recognition and the violence among us spring from a lack of faith in the love of God. If we had a firm faith in God’s unconditional love for us, it would no longer he necessary to he always on the lookout for ways and means of being admired by people; and we would need, even less, to obtain from people by force what God desires to give us freely and so abundantly.

The descending way of Jesus, painful as it is, is God’s most radical attempt to convince us that everything we long for is indeed given us. What he asks of us is to have faith in that love. When Jesus talks about faith, he means first of all to trust unreservedly that you are loved, so that you can abandon every false way of obtaining love.  Jesus sees the evil in this world as a lack of trust in God’s love.

If you come to see this, you’ll also understand why Jesus’ words “Love your enemies” are among the most important in the gospel. These words bring us to the heart and center of love. As long as love is a matter of quid pro quo, we can’t love our enemies. Our enemies are those who withhold love from us and make life difficult for us. We are inclined spontaneously to hate them and to love only those who love us.

If our love, like God’s, embraces friend as well as foe, we have become children of God and are no longer children of suspicion, jealousy, violence, war, and death. Our love for our enemies shows to whom we really belong. It shows our true home.  

When we know that God loves us deeply and will always go on loving us, whoever we are and whatever we do, it becomes possible to expect no more of our fellow men and women than they are able to give, to forgive them generously when they have offended us, and to respond to their hostility with love. By doing so we make visible a new way of being human and a new way of responding to our world problems.

Whenever, contrary to the world’s vindictiveness, we love our enemy, we exhibit something of the perfect love of God, whose will is to bring all human beings together as children of one Father. Whenever we forgive instead of letting fly at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another … in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible; we are diminishing violence and giving birth to a new community.

On the cross Jesus has shown us how far God’s love goes. It’s a love which embraces even those who crucified him. When Jesus is hanging nailed to the cross, totally broken and stripped of everything, he still prays for his executioners: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus’ love for his enemies knows no bounds. He prays even for those who are putting him to death. It is this, the enemy-loving love of God that is offered to us in the Eucharist [Communion]. To forgive our enemies doesn’t lie within our power. That is a divine gift. That’s why it’s so important to make the Eucharist the heart and center of your life. It’s there that you receive the love which empowers you to take the way that Jesus has taken before you: a narrow way a painful way, but the way that gives you true joy and peace and enables you to make the nonviolent love of God visible in this world.

Blessings,

Pastor Josh

Published in: on April 1, 2011 at 6:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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