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The Gift of the Enemy
Session 11

Readings: TPTB - Chapter 9 ; ETP - Chapters 14 & 15

We have to love our enemies just because God does. To take this commandmentof Jesus seriously is to challenge much of what is called Christian or religious.

We often say, "If you repent, you will be forgiven." In Jesus, on the otherhand,

We also are inescapably linked to the enemy because of our common evil. We are all a mixture of just and unjust, good and evil. If the enemy doesn't deserve forgiveness, neither do we.

Matthew ends his paragraph on loving enemies with a command to be perfect as God is perfect. This has driven many Christians to near dispair; and it does not seem fair at all. Does God love only the perfect or those striving for perfection? The Greek word is "teleos" (as in telescope) and speaks of striving to be complete rather than perfect. The parallel passage in Luke 6 makes clear the kind of perfection Jesus was talking about. There we are called upon to be merciful as God is merciful, all-inclusive in the circle of our love and forgiveness. It is not possible to be perfect in this life, but we can train ourselves to practice all-inclusive mercy--though nobody ever said it is easy.

The enemy must be known as "gift," Wink says. It is only as we become able to see through the enemy's eyes and walk in his/her shoes that we become able to see what in ourselves needs redemption.

So the first task toward enemies is pastoral, for our sakes as well as theenemy's. Oppressors as well as the oppressed have been dehumanized, so that

For Discussion

1. Discuss: An anguished mother said of the teen murderer of her son, "I hope they fry him in the electric chair. I hope he burns in Hell." Was Jesus talking about murderers and rapists, too, when he ordered us to love our enemies? Does this commandment affect the way we should feel about capital punishment?

2. Wink describes how the refusal to return violence for violence has enabled reconciliation in South Africa and in southern states in the US during and following the civil rights movment? Where else might we actively "love our enemies" and simultaneously attack injustice and effect reconciliation?

2. Discuss:

Copyright © 1998 by Vern Rossman

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