What’s Love Got To Do With It?

We live in a time of great cultural anxiety. Our nation is more polarized today than at any time in my memory. We characterize people who disagree with us as villains. Our politicians consider “dialogue” and “compromise” to be dirty words. As a culture, we are quite willing to kill the killer, hate the hater, and be close-minded to the close-minded. But in the end, hatred doesn’t work. Hatred breeds hatred.
And yet, hatred seems to be SOP, Standard Operating Procedure, for so much of the world. We plan and plot how to overcome those with whom we disagree. We rejoice in their failures and mourn at their successes. We write letters, make phone calls, send e-mails and muster up support for “our side” among our friends. We try to get people to side with us and join the team of those who are angry with others. And then, we go to war with them.
There is no doubt that the polarization we are experiencing is feeding today’s culture of violence and mass shootings. We’ve even identified a whole new category of “domestic terrorism” to describe events like the Oklahoma City bombing, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Charleston church shooting, the Orlando nightclub shooting, the Congressional baseball shooting and the El Paso Wal-Mart shooting. Our willingness to hate the hater and to villainize those with whom we disagree is part of this national tragedy.
So, what are we to do? Is there a way to end the vicious cycle of hatred? How do we overcome the anger people experience when they feel betrayed? How can we prevent the downward spiral into self destructive patterns of depression, anger or revenge that so many individuals experience when they have suffered abuse at the hands of another?
Jesus answered that question nearly two thousand years ago. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (See the Gospel of Matthew 5:43- 44.)
For Jesus, it is not enough to stop hating your enemy. If you want to experience the blessing of God you have to go farther than that. You have to love your enemy.
Jesus didn’t mean that to love our enemy means we support them in what they do. To love our enemy does not mean we have to agree with them, or even necessarily become good friends with them. Loving our enemy means that the cycle of hate, the cycle of revenge, the cycle of retaliation stops with us. You can be angry with a person for what they do, and yet still love them.
If the cycle of violence that has become so much a part of our culture today is going to be broken, it will take more than changing our gun laws. It will require the power of love. Join us on Sunday morning to discover how.