27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 1:27-28
In a culture marked by increasing polarization, the Church of Jesus Christ is called to a different way of living. It is important for us, as the Church, to recognize that the culture in which we live, that at one time supported the values we espouse, has turned into one that challenges our values. This has placed the church in America in a situation unfamiliar to us and it requires a recalibration of our self-understanding. Our foundational truths have not changed; what has changed is the way the world responds to them.
In both Matthew and Luke Jesus addresses his followers with a strategy different from the one of the dominant culture. At the time Jesus was teaching in the Galilean hills and in the Temple in Jerusalem, the dominant culture was Roman—a culture that accepted religions that had historical standing—but a culture that saw such religions as quaint and unimportant. The TRUE religion for Rome was found in the statement “Caesar is Lord.” That meant that the early church’s statement “Jesus is Lord” was considered traitorous to the state. And for that eventuality Jesus gave his followers a different framework to bear witness to the Gospel. Instead of cursing those who persecuted and hated them Jesus admonished his followers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
This is a completely counter-intuitive to say nothing of a counter-cultural admonition. Jesus understood that the world would reject anything that did not accept its rationale and its values. But for the followers of Jesus the way to engage that hostility was not to curse in kind, but to truly care for those who have made themselves enemies, to do good to those who hurt us, and to pray for those who mistreat us. It is counter-intuitive but it is also Jesus’ command to his people. Remember, He lived that out on the cross when, stretched out on the cross his prayer was, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
In a world that rejects the very tenets that govern our lives, we are called to be the hands and feet of our Savior; to pray for those who do not know Him; and to BE the witnesses to transforming mercy and grace. It is my prayer that we will be the living fulfillment of Jesus’ most difficult instructions. We will not do it on our own—but He has promised the living presence of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.
With deep affection,