Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 9:00am serviceadmin | 11 July 2010
Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies’
It is a moral imperative. Like so many of the moral imperatives of the gospel, it signals what is at once a divine necessity and a human impossibility.
How can we be commanded to do what we cannot do? Because God makes possible what is humanly impossible. In the commandment to “love your enemies,” we see the real force and character of love; its deep truth and reason, as it were. We are shaken out of the soft sentimentalities of our inconstant hearts. We are shaken into the strong desiring of the love of God whom we ask, in the words of the Collect, to “pour into our hearts such love toward thee.”
The radical, uncompromising and unconditional commandment to love confronts us with what is indeed beyond our human understanding, considered in itself, in order to raise us to a divine understanding. “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more,” therefore, “likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” What is commanded by God for man is accomplished in Christ Jesus, both God and man. It is to be realized in us by the quality of our life in Christ. “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” The consequence is that being “with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”
If we were simply commanded to do what cannot be done, then we would be left with the contradiction of the Old Testament; indeed, the tragedy of the ancient world, more generally speaking. There would be our wanting what we cannot realize. We would know what is true and right but which we cannot attain. There would simply be our futility and despair.
The contradiction is only overcome in Jesus Christ. And it is overcome at the most extreme moment of division and tension. Only so can this moral imperative to love your enemies make any possible sense. What is the overcoming? It is the demonstration and the realization of the love of God for us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” the righteous for the unrighteous.
You see, we are all divided in our loves. Those whom we love the most we hurt the most. We can hardly love ourselves, our families, our friends, let alone God, let alone our enemies. “The good that I would I do not; the evil that I would not do that do I do.” And yet this is what God commands because this is what God makes possible.
And he makes it possible humanly. It belongs to the truth of our humanity that we should be commanded to love our enemies; in other words, to look beyond the enmities in our souls, our families, our communities, our churches. Jesus Christ shows us the truth of our humanity in unity with divinity. He is that unity, that perfect and divine mediation between God and man, between where we want to be and where we find ourselves in our enmity against God, against one another, and against ourselves. You see, we are the enemies whom God loves. “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son” and he loves us “while we were yet enemies.”
To love our enemies is to place them – whomever they and we might be, the enemies that are ourselves in the disarray of our sins – in the compassionate love of God in Jesus Christ. He who is the Word and Son of the Father shows us the deep logic and reason of love, its perfect and perfecting power. He commands that his love be the ruling principle in our lives. He commands us to do what is possible but only in him, only by the quality of our lives and our loves as rooted and grounded in the free and self-giving love of God.
To love your enemies is to know t hem in Christ. It means to know them in the love of him who on the cross prays “Father, forgive them.” It means to see ourselves and one another in the motion of God’s love towards us. Such is the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection is given to be the pattern of our lives, our lives in him, in Christ. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves” – know yourselves – in Christ and in him “love your enemies.”
Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies’
Fr. David Curry
Trinity VI, 2010
St. Michael’s, Windsor Forks, 9:00am