For four Sundays, January 29- February 19, the lectionary gives us scripture readings from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to use during worship. The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of Jesus’ teachings on all kinds of issues. If you have the time, I encourage you to read the sermon as a whole from start to finish. You can find it in Matthew, chapters 5 through 7. I am always amazed at the timeliness of Jesus’ words. This morning I was struck by these simple yet profound words of Jesus in Matthew 5:43-45:
“43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
We are living in a polarized world, divided into camps of liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. Increasingly we get our news from different trusted sources, trusted by those “like us.” It is comfortable to live in an echo-chamber, where the ideas and thoughts we hear on the TV or see on the internet are all echoes of our own ideas and thoughts. Other ideas do exist, but we choose not to listen. And even more tragically, we discount the merit of those who see the world in ways different from ours.
As Christians, I think we can do better. I recently went to a workshop by Rev. Ron Richardson on the topic of the Healthy Church. Ron has a personal mission to listen to those who see the world differently than he does. He wants to understand, and so he seeks out people from other viewpoints for conversation. I think most of us would rather avoid those kind of encounters. When we see the hat or the T-shirt, we turn the other way. Some of us avoid talking with family who disagree with us, or unfriend one another on Facebook when the posts of that former friend become “too political.” Instead, maybe we should listen to Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount. Loving those who are like us is not usually difficult. Loving those who are different, who voted for the other candidate, who see the world in ways we do not – that’s much harder. I think that is what Jesus is asking us to do when he says “love your enemies.” Why? Jesus says it best. Like you and me, they are children of God.
During the month of February, let’s practice this more difficult love. Make a list of those whose politics you disagree with. Then pray for the people on that list daily. Don’t pray that they would change their views – that would be praying for them to become like you. Instead, pray for their well-being, and for an opportunity to calmly listen well to each other for the purpose of understanding. I wonder what God will teach us through a month of prayer and thoughtful conversation?
With prayers for courage,