“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Do you want to know what I think our nation needs right now? A heaping dose of imagination, that’s what. Rather than going straight to the negative, to the creation and destruction of enemies based on party affiliation, to the self-preservation and the schadenfreude, let’s be open and creative when we envision a New Jerusalem. Let’s get real. Let’s put away the platitudes and ask what we can actually do to heal division. Rather than ask, “How can that person possibly think that way?” let’s ask the same question about ourselves. Let’s be honest and reflective about our own indulgence in groupthink, and about how own hyperbole threatens and hurts others.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, he offers something new and radical. He claims that our salvation is based on a reversal of fortunes; the world works differently now because God is not stingy or calculating, but lavish and full of grace. We are to love, pray, bless, turn to, lend, give to and forgive our enemies and those we scorn as “sinners.”
Frankly, I’m not sure we even know who these enemies are. While I am often stunned by what my right-wing Texan cousins post on Facebook, they are certainly not my enemies. We lose when we allow the cesspool of political rhetoric to diminish the full humanity of anyone who is not on our side or doesn’t vote, think or act the way we do. (Where is the imagination in that?)
Judging and condemning goes both ways—just as loving, praying, blessing, turning, lending, giving and forgiving does. Lent is the perfect time for my “frenemies” and me to get real about our snarky and condescending assumptions about the Other. Now is the time to let our imaginations run wild in lavish generosity of spirit and esteem. For the measure we give will be the measure we get back.
May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.
To Bless the Space Between Us, John O’Donohue
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