You have heard that it was said: "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Growing up in Christian culture, I think I've failed to realize how truly radical that teaching is.
It actually took a study of the book of Jonah (your more-than-half of the Bible, Jeff!) to help me realize that. Most people who know about that book remember the story of him being rescued from drowning by being swallowed by a whale/large fish which later spit him up on to dry land. But there's far more to that book than an ancient Pinocchio story.
The most interesting dynamic in Jonah is his absolute refusal to preach to the people of Assyria. And, after that little intra-whale cruise changes his mind, Jonah actually resents when God shows mercy to the Assyrians! What gives?
Well, Jonah's only showing a bit of understandable concern for national self-preservation. The Assyrians were Israel's enemies, a cruel and ruthless nation. Jonah probably suspected that, if they weren't wiped out by divine judgment or something, the Assyrians would wipe out Israel. And he was absolutely correct in that assessment. A few generations later, Assyria invaded Israel, scattering the inhabitants and permanently wiping out the northern kingdom of ancient Israel.
And yet God called Jonah to preach to the Assyrians and, when they repented, showed them mercy. THIS is how serious God takes the "love your enemy" teaching. We are to love those who could, and very probably will, cause us great harm. This is so contrary to everything we learn in this world....to everything we are taught by the way people around us behave. To the world, it's utter foolishness. To followers of Christ - if they are paying attention - it's a standard to aspire to.
This isn't just telling me to be nice to my neighbors upstairs who constantly blast loud music. (Though I fail even at that.) This is saying that I should take those who wish me destruction and misery - say, a terrorist - and seek their good.
Perhaps it's just my desire to avoid the implications of this teaching and thus make my life easier....but I'm having trouble envisioning what such radical love even looks like.
Let's start small: What would it look like to love my annoying neighbors?
What would it look like to love a terrorist? How about (and now we're getting really too deep for a blog) the man who murdered my nieces when I was 13?
Let me know what you think.
Okay, that was waaaaaaaaaaaay too serious. Time for some inappropriately-placed-in-the-same-blog-post levity.
Well the nominations are rolling in for my blog contest
....from 2 people. Not to say there aren't some very funny contenders, but I was under the impression that a number of my friends were experts in satire. Yet nary a nomination from certain anonymous unnamed individuals
who at least occasionally read this blog. What, you people got lives or something getting in the way of this noble endeavor? Nominate something!
The prize, by the way, will be cookies of some sort. My wife, by the way, is an excellent and creative baker. She has come up with some excellent cookie/cake flavors before.