Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
It just seems too good to be true, but then again . . .
Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount about nonviolence and the love of our enemies are a bit of a head-scratcher. Does he really mean what he says? “Turn the other cheek . . . give to those who ask . . . let them have your coat as well . . . and when they force you to go one mile, go with them two” (Matthew 5:39–42).
Who are “they”? Does it matter who “they” are? Why do “they” hate us? And what did we ever do to “them”? These are just a few of the questions that we can find ourselves asking as we begin to chew on Jesus’ words. And yet I find that many of these questions, while originating from our own desire to understand, can also become the very same instruments that we use to wiggle our way out of our own discomfort with Jesus’ teachings and the responsibility that we are given to be peacemakers in a broken and violent world.
Jesus’ invitation for us to love one another and our enemies is a difficult lesson for us to live out in practice. And here’s the good news: such a lesson is so important for us precisely because it is difficult. When Jesus commands us to love our enemies, we are immediately confronted by our own capacity toward bitterness and hostility, all the parts of ourselves that struggle to believe in the truth of his summoning us toward the way of reconciliation; such is the way of the cross, the way that Jesus has demonstrated for us.
Could it be that God can lead us to experience the freedom of the peace of Christ? Could it be that God has already done this? If only we believed that there really is another way.
Andrew L. Heil, pastor, Hope Moravian Church,
Winston-Salem, North Carolina