When Your Neighbor is also Your Enemy

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“But I say…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”  Luke 6:27

“You shall love…your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:27

Are those unable to impact either our lives or the lives of others, deserving of the designation of the enemy?   Or is it those who are close, in a position of influence and/or power and by all accounts should be trusted, who become one?

Think of the occasions when you’ve been hurt, maligned and/or betrayed.    Was it a person and or persons whom you didn’t know or were utterly distant from you?  Or was it someone or persons that were close, whom you trusted or whose values you thought corresponded with your own?

Blogger, Levi Rogers, writes,

“….[concerning enemies], Jesus wants to make it clear that our neighbors are everyone… even specifically, our enemies. So another way [of addressing love of neighbor, may be], to ask,  “Who is my enemy?” [1]

In other words, when Jesus responded to the lawyer’s question, “And just who is my neighbor?” by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus also addressed the necessity of loving our enemies.

Consider the racism, cruelty, deceit, and complicity being enacted by the current administration and those who further their policies.    Is it because they are behaving like enemies that makes the actions so egregious?  Or is it because they are violating the very tenants granted to them by their position and therefore are disregarding the vows they swore to uphold?

So this makes them our enemies, right?

But what if Jesus was teaching us, that our enemies are also our neighbors?    What then?

After directing his listeners to “love your enemies…and do good to those who hate you,” knowing they were likely resisting his words,  Jesus then asked his audience,  “Are you grinning ear to ear because you lavish love upon those who adore you?   Even your ordinary, run-of-the-mill sinner can pull this off.    Are you feeling smug because of the nice things you do for your friends?  Even the most obnoxious of sinners do this.   Are you feeling magnanimous because you loaned money to a person you know will repay you back (and quickly)?   Even the most miserly of sinners do this.”   [2]

What if Jesus wants us to be different than what the world expects?   While it is understandable to respond scornfully with those whose words and actions are contemptible OR tune out by ignoring their behavior, what if Jesus’ directive to love – takes us down an entirely different path?    One that refuses to respond with self-righteous indignation that can justify hateful words and actions.   One that promotes human dignity and respect, even if we feel like we’re the only one exercising it at the time.

What if we’re not only made in the image of God but are challenged to be “like” God?  No, not holier than thou – but full of compassion.  Not as aloof bystanders – but as active participants exercising deeds of mercy?

What if our enemies are also our neighbors?

 

 

[1] Levi Rogers, Who is My Enemy? (Sojourners Magazine: July 2013)

[2] The Gospel of Luke, 6:32-34, paraphrased

Author: Jessica McArdle

These are dark and corrosive times. As a writer and ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, I use prayer, poetry, reflection, and scripture to re-align our embattled spirits with the uniqueness and urgency of our God-given identity and call.

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