14 February 2019Matthew 5:43-48
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (v. 44)
Psalm: Psalm 73:15-28
We read this passage on Valentine’s Day – the day when shops seem besieged in saccharine wishes and all things red; where chocolates and roses are the promised indulgence for those lucky enough to be partnered with a caring other. A day when cards put into rhyme our good wishes and physical desires for another.
Jesus does not chocolate coat the way of grace.
After all, as Jesus says here, loving people who love us back only serves to reinforce our giggly sensibility.
Jesus doesn’t subscribe to the adage that we should love God, self and neighbour – although these are good Jewish precepts.
Jesus goes much, much further.
Love those who hate you.
Those who persecute you.
Those who cheat you or tax you or both.
Love the remainer and the leaver,
Love the conservative and the communist,
Love the homeless and the refugee,
And love the multi-billionaire in their penthouse.
Love the republican and the democrat,
Love the gambler, the murderer.
Love those that the world throws aside,
Love indiscriminately, abundantly.
Love like Jesus.
Jesus holds his followers up to a higher standard of holiness, character, and behaviour than other people. Crucially, loving those who hate you has very little to do with the self; but has everything to offer to the recipient. It is disarming, and it is a countercultural response to shame, humiliation, hatred and fear.
Just the prescription we need today.
- Who do you need to say ‘I love you’ to today?
- Is there anyone who you would find it impossible to love? What does this scripture offer into that situation?
- As the UK becomes more and more divided, how might we embody Jesus’ command to love?