Who is My Enemy?

“But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you." ~ Luke 6:27-36

by Sam Riedel on March 06, 2024

I am fond of words. Fond of the way in which they can be employed in all manners of ways to encourage, praise, console, and advise. I am fond of the way in which words of grace, peace, and encouragement to those who sorely need grace, peace, and encouragement can do wonders. They can in their own way serve as small imitations and reenactments of God’s grace and creative love. In the beginning, God spoke all that was and is and shall ever be into existence, and through language we are graced to do such things in our own way. To speak of love, of belonging, to invite, and to welcome. There may be limitless variety in the spoken word, but all people in all times have had language to speak of love, belonging, invitation, and welcome.  Yet as we know, all people in all times have had a means to convey hatred, division, estrangement, and exclusion. In the beginning, God spoke, and there was light, order, wisdom, and love. But very soon after, we too spoke, and our words were not God’s word.  

Many of us are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan, which is often loved more from a distance than within close range. It is within that story that faithful believers in Christ are forced to ask themselves: who is my neighbor? We employ that word - neighbor - often and regularly.  We seem to know who it represents and what it means. It is those left and right of us and those we encounter on the street. It is the question asked in countless sermons, in countless casual conversations, and in countless quiet prayers. This passage, lovingly compiled and retold by our dear friend Luke, asks another question, which is preached, discussed, and prayed far less often: who is my enemy? The word “enemy” does not roll off our tongues as easily. It is rare to refer to someone or something in such a way. We call others such small and seemingly harmless things: immature, too old, a tad slow, altogether stupid, to name a few. Sports rivalries may speak loudly with tones of venom and scorn; but while Michigan may be rivals, even very great rivals, of Ohio State, the term “enemy” seems too grand. The word “enemy” appears to come out of the 4th century and reminds us of the 20th. Yet it is these same enemies Jesus says to love, to do good towards, to bless, and to pray for. But who, Lord, is my enemy?  Perhaps that is the question that we should be pondering and praying over this Lenten journey.  God knows we have countless words with which to phrase such a question: words that encourage, praise, console, and advise as well as those that divide, estrange, and exclude.  This Lenten season, may God reveal to us who our enemies are, so having listened and heard the words of Jesus, we might favor the former and through love, goodness, blessing, and prayer never need to ask, who then is my neighbor?  

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