Forgiving Our Enemies

2022-02-20 – Year C – Epiphany 7 – The Rev. Carrie Klukas
Genesis 45:3-11, 21-28; Psalm 37:8-17; 1 Corinthians 15:35-49; Luke 6:27-38

Lord Jesus come be among us and help us to hear your word. Help us to hear your radical message of loving our enemies and help us to change. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

In our homeschooling curriculum the kids and I are learning about the first American missionaries named Adoniram and Ann Judson. They felt called to go and serve in India under the British East India Company in 1812. However when they arrived missionaries were being kicked out of the country and refused to be allowed to settle. So what were they to do? They knew God wanted them to serve in a country where Christianity had not been shared. So they went on to Burma or what we know as Myanmar. There they met a former Buddihist monk who taught them the language and customs of the land. They slowly began the painstaking task of translating the Bible into the Burmese language. Meanwhile, being the only white or western people in their area, many were suspicious of their presence. In time England and Burma were at war with each other and the government became convinced that the Judsons were spies for the English. 

Adoniram was taken away to the Death Prison as it was called along with several other English prisoners also thought to be spies. Ann went over and over again to get permission to visit her husband in the prison and finally after the second day she was allowed to see her husband which required quite a lot of bravery. At night the prisoners’ feet were tied to a pole that was lifted into the air so that only their shoulders touched the ground. For eleven months Ann went to visit her sick, chained up, and rapidly deteriorating husband. She would bring his daughter which had just been born and pray for his release. Finally the Burmese wanted to end the war with the English and took Adoniram out of prison in order to help craft the Peace Treaty. They needed his translating abibilites to ensure their agreements with the English. For his work in the Peace Treaty the English treated him like royalty. 

To celebrate the Peace Treaty the English threw a ball and invited the Judsons as their special guests along with the other Burmese officials. During the ball one of the Burmese officials saw Ann come in on the arm of the British general and looked as if he wished the ground would open and swallow him. This frail white lady had come to him over and over begging him to remove the five leg-irons which chained her sick husband in prison. “No,” he shrugged. When she had turned to leave, he said, “Wait. Give me your silk parasol. My wife thinks it is pretty.” “Please, no! I need it to keep the hot son off my head,” Ann had said. “I am not well-I might faint on the way home.” The official laughed and stole it from her. Now she was the honored guest of the British general.

The Burmese official began to shake for fear that he was going to be taken out at any minute and shot to death for how he had treated her. He was sure that she would take revenge just as he would have if it had been done to him. Ann saw how distressed he was and came to him kindly saying not to worry, not to be afraid, she meant no harm to him. She told him she did not hold a grudge. The man could not believe it and spent the rest of the night profusely sweating and shaking with fear. At the end of the night as he was leaving he shook his head and said, “I don’t understand these Christians,” he muttered. “They forgive their enemies!” 

This story of the Judsons completely embodies our Gospel passage today. The Gospel of Luke is sharing the radical ideas of Christian love from Jesus. The heart of the Gospel is in these words spoken to us today. Jesus calls those who follow him to walk in His ways and to love our enemies. At a quick first glance this seems like a good idea but if we dive more fully into the text we see how truly difficult this is in comparison to our world view. From the time of  the fall of Adam and Eve we find the wickedness of man and woman. We find the inward, selfish ideas and motives that creep into our minds and find their way into our actions. The evil one plagues the world with notions of revenge, feeling powerful through suppression of others, and promoting the division of humans from seeing each other as made in the image of God. We quickly look down on others, divide ourselves up into teams, and seek out opportunities of revenge when others hurt us. We live in a world that says you need to get them before they get you. We live in a world that says we must protect ourselves and provide for ourselves even at the cost of others. We live in a world that promotes climbing on top of others to get to the top.

Jesus however speaks to the world in a different way. Jesus speaks into the world light that will cast out the darkness and set us truly free from hatred, anger, or wrongdoing. These words of Jesus were spoken for those who are disciples and followers on the Way. They were for those who wanted to dive deeper into the way of a Christian. You were not expected to adhere to these teachings in order to become a Christian but rather they come out of an abundant relationship with God the Father, and God the Son in Jesus. We are called to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. When someone speaks ill of us and chatizes us we are to speak gently, kindly, and let our words be shaped by grace. Even when we want to set them straight, even when we want to tear them down with our own version of the story, even when we want justifiable retribution for their actions, we are called to love them. Jesus embodied love for those who were unlovable. If you think about it Jesus was without sin and who among us is without sin? No not one of us is without sin, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So every human being that Jesus came into contact with was dirty, broken, and with fault. Yet Jesus responds with love and tells us to do the same.

Jesus’ loving of our enemies can sometimes mean learning to forgive and pray for people who have done extremely grievous sins against us. Our enemies are often those who are closest to us and who did not treat us the way we were supposed to be treated. God made mothers and fathers to protect, love, guide, and care for us when we are most vulnerable. Sometimes in life our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, close family members, dating partners and friends do things that are wicked and evil to us and it grieves the heart of our Lord. Our way to freedom from these grievous sins is through healing prayer and the act of forgiving them even though they do not deserve our forgiveness. Loving our enemies does not mean agreeing with their actions or behaviors but rather setting our own hearts free from their wickedness and free from the effects of evil. Jesus’ way to freedom is to bless those who curse you and to pray for those who abuse you. We can not in our own strength pray for those who hurt us but as we lift them over and over to the Lord we find healing in our hearts, minds, and bodies. Our abusers lose their grip in our lives and we become free.  

Jesus’ words to us today echo a message of Love, Do good, Bless, and Pray. Jesus is not necessarily calling us to feel a certain set of emotions but rather calling us to a life of action or choosing to bend our own will towards actions of love. True loving is choosing actions of love and actions of kindness when we do not feel like it. When we follow the way of Jesus he can help us to grow in the way of self government. Each and every one of us has the ability to tell ourselves what to think and how to feel. Each and every one of us can choose love, can choose forgiveness, can choose to control our mouths and what we say. If you are baptized you were given the Holy Spirit to reside inside of you and to help give you wisdom and to help you choose the way to go. You are not alone. One of the things that I pray with my kids after receiving Eucharist is that we might remember that we are not alone but rather we have you Lord Jesus within us to guide us and to transform our lives. The Holy Spirit can change and transform your life for the better. The Holy Spirit can help you love when you want to hate. The Holy Spirit can give you grace for others when you want to run away or judge someone for their differing view point. The Holy Spirit can give us love for those we perceive as our enemies. 

Often when we choose loving actions such as warmly smiling instead of scowling, being kind when spoken to harshly, offering help even though someone is being unkind God shows up and a bit of His mercy is seen in the world. How many times have you been in a room and watched a calm non-anxious person change the entire tone of the room? Love is calm, peaceful, and self governed. Love seeks to serve someone else despite their worthiness or unworthiness. Often loving feelings come around after loving actions are chosen. There are people in all of our lives who have hurt us and if we take the time to pray for them we will find ourselves healing in the process. They may not change but God can change us for the better in the process. 

Love involves doing good. Think about the good samaritan as our church is named after. The good samaritan helped the beat up jew who was his enemy. Samaritans and Jews would have known each other by just looking at one another. What were they wearing, what did they do with their hair, or footwear? They would have known and had been taught from infancy to hate one another and to revile each other. They would have been taught that one less Jew or Samaritan in the world was a good thing. This samaritan however did not hate but rather got into the mix of helping a fellow human. The good samaritan demonstrates this message of love, serving others without expecting anything in return. Loving another person because they are made in the image of God whether or not they were found worthy or not by their actions. Jesus is imploring us in the scriptures to live a life of love in which we give more of ourselves then we think possible.  In this Gospel Jesus is telling us to share abundantly with others and to do so without any thought of receiving it back. Loaning money to people is an unwise practice because it will always change your relationship with others. If you want to give someone a gift then do so without any strings attached to the gift. 

One of the gifts of time passing is that we have a plethora of people’s lives to emulate and to learn from. There is another missionary whose life represents this self-giving love and that is Amy Carmichael. Amy was an Irish Christian missionary who first went to Japan as a missionary and had to return due to severe illness. Only to come home get better and to leave for India. In India she found another missionary couple who sought to truly bring the Christian faith to the people of India, often suffering terribly from persecution and ill health; she shared the love of Christ with many people. Eventually it was the children who came to her and sought her out as a mother. Amy at one point in her life longed to be married and worried that she would be lonely, God however promised her she would never be lonely and that He would care for her. She founded an orphanage and served in India for 55 years never taking a furlough and dying in her beloved country. Amy rescued children from temple prostitution, Islamic, and Hindu families that sought to hurt them for converting to Christianity. Amy had countless times when she risked her life in order to give another person a chance at a christian life. Her life was a life lived in sharing God’s love with the world from those who would have never heard had she not gone and risked everything. She gave up her health, the comfort of her life in England, and the company of her family to share Christ’s love with those who only knew Hinduism and Islam. 

Jesus longs for us to bring His love into the world in our everyday lives. Maybe we are called to do dramatic acts of faith such as the Judsons and Amy Carmichael. Or perhaps we are called to be faithful parents who parent with love, self-control, and kindness even if we weren’t parented that way. If you are a parent then you are called to raise up your children in the love of the Lord and to turn their hearts to their heavenly Father who will love them so much. You and I need to be asking God what we need to be teaching our children? What does God want us to read to our children to draw them closer to the Lord? What do we need to be reading to help us learn how to be more godly parents? Our moments with our children go so very swiftly and if we don’t seize the moments with them then they will be gone. 

If you are past the parenting years how can you find a godly vision for imparting God’s love to those in your family? Letters sent to your grandchildren and adult children can impart some of your wisdom and love of the Lord. If you have never done it ask the Lord what you need to apologize to your adult children for and do so, apologize for the ways in which you hurt your children, spoke harshly, or failed to share your faith. It’s never too late to seek reconciliation with your family and to share your love of the Lord. The scriptures say today that you should do to others as you would have them do to you. Jesus wants us to always remember to care for others in the way that we want to be treated. If you are tempted to speak harshly, act out in anger, or gossip about others, stop and ask yourself if you would want the same treatment. How would you feel if you got up from a group of people and they began to talk about you? How do you feel if someone is always blowing up in anger at you? God deeply cares about your real everyday life and He wants to give you a new life full of joy, mercy, and self control. 

Jesus says that we are to be merciful even as our Father is merciful and we are to look to our heavenly Father for wisdom and direction in our lives. We are not to judge others lest we be judged the same way. Every time you are tempted to judge another person on their lifestyle choices, the way they parent, how they retired, or any other decision in their life try to stop, turn your heart to the Lord and do not give an opinion. Instead lean in and ask God for a godly curiosity about the person. Ask God for eyes to see the person the way He does to have kind thoughts before judgemental ones. To have compassion the way that Christ has compassion and to love others more than we can in our own strength. I found it really helpful to have a spiritual director who I spoke to and confessed my sins to, having to admit over and over again that I judged others really helped me to stop being so judgmental of others and instead my judgment became replaced with compassion. The scriptures are really clear that we will be judged with the same measure that we judge others. Not judging and forgiving others becomes the remedy to our broken sinful hearts. Otherwise we continue hurting others, judging, and guarding ourselves from being hurt and missing out on the abundant life God wants for us. 

The gift of living a life of loving your enemies is that God promises that if we give He will give back to us. As we live out our lives in loving our enemies, being kind to those around us, and seeking to not judge others but rather to forgive we are given abundantly. The scriptures say, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” God does not skimp on His provision. When grain is being measured out it is supposed to be tamped down so that there are no spaces and the customer gets their rightful amount due to them. God however doesn’t just provide what is due to us but rather surpasses His provision with abundant love and grace. He pours out so much so that the faithful believer receives far more than what he or she needs and far more than they expect. He lavishes upon us grace upon grace so that we might feel His profound love for us, so that we might share that love with others. 

So how might God be calling you to love your enemies? How might God be calling you to draw closer to Him that you might know His mercy and goodness? How might God want to set you free from deep wounds which pierce your heart and soul from others who did not care for you as they should? Who might God be calling you to forgive today? It is my prayer for each and every one of you that God might set you free from some deep wound or deep hurt and give you mercy and more wholeness in your heart. It is my prayer for each of you that you would grow deeply from the act of forgiving others or asking forgiveness from them. It is my hope for you this week that Jesus might touch you with His powerful words of healing.  To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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