What to Do with Our Enemies – Br. Curtis Almquist
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It is safe to say that Jesus did not agree with everyone. Jesus did speak endlessly about love, about loving living, about love being of our essence because God is love. And so we love. Love is the reason for our being. Love for those for whom we feel tenderly, feel a sense of belonging, feel compassion towards. We love them, and that love flows as freely as water flowing in a stream. But Jesus also calls us to love our enemies. Calling someone an enemy is oftentimes not politically correct to say, then and now. More often there are people whom we may find repelling, disgusting, stupid, clueless, getting in the way of the life and values we so cherish. These “enemies” are people whom we may judge are not helpful to our program and not aligned with our values.
It’s safe to say Jesus had enemies. They ultimately put him to death. But long before then he met plenty of opposition. This gospel lesson appointed for today accounts for Jesus at dinner with many tax collectors and sinners. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last. This isn’t just a passing chat; this is sitting at table together, sharing sustenance, a planned event which begins with something on which everyone can agree: everyone is hungry. It’s a very vulnerable occasion to share dinner with someone. Sitting at table puts everyone on the same plane. It’s equally dignifying to everyone. But that’s not to say that Jesus agreed with everything that the many tax collectors and sinners practiced and valued in life. Clearly not. Nor with the Pharisees. But he did have space in his heart to recognize their dignity, their desires, their hungers, their place in God’s world. And he repeatedly met these “enemies” on a level plane, such as at table.
What would a level plane look like for meeting with your own “enemies”?
William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury in the mid-1940s, recognized the inevitable presence of opposition.[i] William Temple said that in our dealings with one another, “Let us be more eager to understand those who differ from us than either to refute them or to press upon them our own tradition. Whenever there are differences which persist, there is sure to be something of value on both sides.”
[i] William Temple (1881-1944), Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-1944.
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