29 January 2021Luke 6:32-38
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great (v. 35)
We experience mutual love and support in all sorts of settings including: our families, workplaces, friendship and neighbourhood networks, and leisure and sports clubs. The Church belongs in this list. These groupings are never to be treated dismissively. They are crucial to our sense of identity, worth and wellbeing. If we did not have them we would experience total isolation or long periods of abject loneliness and nothing is more destructive of inner security and peace of mind.
Some of these mutuality groups are formed with people whom we naturally relate to because we have much in common. Others have a wider mix of personalities, beliefs and backgrounds. But in them all there are limits to the range of ideas and emotions we can tolerate, without a group imploding in anger and bad faith.
In verse 35 (reinforcing verse 27), Jesus tells us to love not just our friends and family but our enemies. He warns against complacency and the limitations of only loving people in our social groups. He demands his disciples step outside their comfort zone to engage – lovingly – with those who are hostile to them and everything they value. God’s mercy is comprehensive; it embraces everyone, however badly they have behaved. When God’s love fills the heart of believers there is pressure from within to widen the range of people they attempt to care for, serve, help and befriend.
Verses 37-38 clarify that in human affairs, as a general rule, people treat us as we treat them – whoever they are. So there is a route to happiness if we can find it in our hearts to be generous beyond measure to other people. And the hidden message is God’s way is generosity to all. To allow God to fill our hearts with self-giving love, and to live God’s way, is to find one’s vocation as a human being.
- Congregations often aspire to be inclusive and diverse, but only attract a restricted range of people. What would have to happen to make your congregation more hospitable to those who think they do not naturally belong there? Are there under-represented groups in your neighbourhood you need to engage with?
- Are there people you avoid? What fears and anxieties do you experience? To whom do you talk to help allay these feelings? Who would you ask to accompany you to take an initiative towards someone you have long avoided?