Love your enemies

So I haven’t posted lately. And I haven’t responded to the many people who have left comments on my blog. I’m so sorry. I have lots of good excuses, including flu and an Advent devotional booklet that I am editing, and very little childcare coverage.

I anticipate that next week, after I have preached (woohoo! first time in more than 2 years!) and celebrated Thanksgiving and finished the devotional booklet and taught Sunday school, I am going to blog like crazy. After all, I have notes built up for several entries that I have just been too overwhelmed to flesh out. But as a stopgap, I am pasting in here one of my contributions for my congregation’s devotional booklet.

(This will make better sense if you read Psalm 70:19-29 first. But you probably know the kind of Psalm I’m talking about.)

I had always had trouble with Psalms like this. Praying that bad things would happen to other people didn’t seem to be what Jesus had in mind when he advised, “love your enemies.” I struggled even more as the desire grew in me to embrace all of the Bible, not just part of it. How could I embrace words like these?

Then a rabbi explained to me how our “Old Testament” is viewed in the Jewish tradition: it is divided into the words of God for humanity (the Law and the Prophets, invoked as authoritative throughout our New Testament), and the words of the faithful to God – the Ketuvim, or Writings. And included in the Writings were the Psalms. Perhaps the inclusion of these Psalms did not mean that God had any intention of raining destruction on my enemies – only that I was liberated to spill even my darkest emotions in the safety of God’s loving presence.

And so it was that I found myself, weeks later, on my knees in Duke Chapel. I was consumed with anger with a fellow student. [Note to my J2J friends who are now wondering who it is: I can say with some certainty that he doesn’t even know about this blog, so at least you know a couple of people you can rule out! ] I prayed that God would obliterate him with great fanfare, but only after letting him suffer a bit. I described in great detail all the horrible things that I hoped would befall him. And after many minutes of this – I remember my knees aching on the stone floor – I was spent. My rage was all poured out, and I was empty. And into that silence, a new thought entered: God loved me! God loved angry, hate-filled me! … and God loved my enemy. Could I bring myself to love him, too?

That day, bringing the full force of my anger before God had in fact empowered me to love my enemy so well that I remembered that he was my brother in Christ, and God’s own beloved child – without feeling ashamed of my having expressed such rage, remembering that I continued to be God’s beloved child, too.

Loving Creator, sometimes I get really angry, so angry that I don’t want to admit it to anyone, even myself. Give me courage to bring even my scariest and darkest emotions to you, trusting in your saving love, knowing that my darkness can never overcome your Light. Amen.

So, friends, I hope that you can forgive me for not yet responding to your helpful and thoughtful comments, nor reading your own blogs in the past week or two — or at least I urge you to take whatever vengeful thoughts you have to God in prayer! 😉 No, that is not really why I posted this. I posted it because I did not realize until later that this interpretation of “be angry, but do not sin” might be controversial. And I thought I’d put it out there for community discussion and review.

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