Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of God. Jesus is demanding a lot of us in these decrees he is setting forth these past few days. He seems to be setting the bar awfully high for us.
What strikes me this morning is this order that we are to love those who are enemies and pray for those who persecute us. What does it mean to love someone? What does it mean to love our enemies? Does it mean we have to like them? Agree with them?
If we read through our Outline of the Faith (commonly called the Catechism), we can find a rough definition of love, even though it is not defined anywhere specifically. We find that love surrounds most of the responses to the call and response of that Catechism. It is a way of being. A way of being in the world, interacting in the world, approaching everyday interactions. We hear in the Catechism about: a single loving God (p. 846, 862), the love of God (p. 846, 862), God is love (p. 849), we hold them in our love (p. 862), those whom we love (p. 862). There is no clear definition, it just is; it is just a way of being. A way of being like God: patient, understanding, appropriately chiding and cajoling and pushing, appreciating, praying for, hoping for, all of these encompass and help define what really is very difficult to define.
I get this idea of praying for those who persecute us - as that is something that is clear and requires a definitive act. I am not saying that I always like or succeed at this requirement, but I understand it a lot more clearly than this love thing. But I also know, quite clearly, when I don't like someone, when someone does something that offends me, or hurts me, or when I feel a hatred towards them. Perhaps that is the key to trying to define the undefinable. In those moments when my lesser self is raging on about some individual, perhaps that is when I need to take note, to pause, and look in the opposite direction. This is when I need to remember this directive from Jesus, Yet how do I find love for this person? I think it starts with prayer: prayer for understanding, prayer for healing, prayer for this other individual who has caused so much pain, an offering up to God, a turning over to God those things that I cannot change.
Centering in prayer allows that love that God has planted in all of us not only to take root, but to become the center of all that we do and all that we are and all that we can be. That is a good start to understanding the undefinable and ever-changing nature of love.
Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.