I would hear sometimes a character say “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Then someone would usually respond with “Or is the enemy of my enemy also my enemy?” And even though I’m pretty bright, that was always a pretty tough question for me. I knew that it was an important question because the outcome of the hero’s campaign hinged on correctly identifying who her enemies were.
Perhaps strangely, perhaps not, this is what jumps to mind when I read Jesus’ words about loving my enemies in Luke. As I have talked to people over the years and asked them about their enemies, I have heard a lot of answers, usually a coworker, classmate, neighbor, family member… And yet, Paul tells me that if my enemies have flesh and blood, then they, in fact, cannot be my enemies. So how can our enemies be people? I can turn on the tv everyday, any time of day and hear someone tell me who I am supposed to be at war with and why I am to think of this person or that group as my enemy.
Jesus tells me that God is kind to the wicked. And that messes me, to be honest. It goes against all my normal human rationalization.
I have to really think about mercy only being mercy if it is undeserved; grace being grace if it is undeserved.
It seems that love, especially of my enemy, has to be born out of relationship but how do I have a relationship with people I don’t know? What is it that binds us together.
Jesus tells me this story in Luke about the Good Samaritan. A story I have heard many times. I have often heard about the Samaritan. Heard Jewish purity laws put into context for the first two religious people. I have even heard a sermon about the inn keeper. But I wonder about the beaten man and his status as enemy.
What if the beaten man wasn’t a good man?
What if he was the neighborhood rumor monger?
What if he was a wife beater?
What if he had just stolen the life saving and trust funds of the elderly and school children?
What if he had gotten away with blowing up a building killing lots of people?
Does that change the story?
Does that change how we feel about the Samaritan for unconditionally helping him?
I guess we can chalk some of it up to the Samaritan not knowing any of that when he helped him initially but, see, there is this nasty piece of work about him promising to come back and clear the debts of the beaten man. So what if the Samaritan got to the next town and as he was telling this story, the people there explained to him just who this man was?
Does that affect the promise?
Would it for us?
Just as painful is the fact that Christ tells us to “do good” to our enemies. This is more than the absence of hate or the emotion of love. It’s more than just remaining calm as we let their words and action bounce off us. It’s more than saying, “Poor you, I will certainly be praying for you.”
Do good to those who hate you. It’s an active seeking out of those who the world would have us see as enemy.
Love, blessing, prayer– none of these things can come from pity. We were never meant to be a people who reach our hand down to lift out the sad, poor heathen but to be people who lift up from underneath.
To be servants.
And it’s here that we find another thorn in the rose of the Gospel. Christ says that it is “Then” our reward will be great and we’ll be children of the Most High. After we have done good to those who hate us, “then”…
I don’t know all the theological ramifications of that but I know that it seems to be important to Christ. I wonder how important it is to me.