Five years ago, I wrote the following article for the monthly newsletter at Faith Lutheran Church where I was serving. A couple of weeks ago, I preached a sermon where I asked people to share their fears. When this article popped up as a Facebook Memory, I decided to share it again.
A prayer for our enemies from ELW p.80: Gracious, God your Son called on you to forgive his enemies while he was suffering shame and death. Lead our enemies and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
We simply do not know enough and I fear that we aren’t all that interested in learning. I think our nation is in trouble but I don’t think our biggest enemy is terrorists or liberals or fundamentalists or any other “ist” that you can think of. I think our nation is in trouble because of ignorance. We are becoming more and more ignorant because we have stopped listening, we have stopped sharing in dialogue, and we have abandoned Jesus command to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” Now I might be sounding a bit harsh, but I will admit that I am frustrated because of all of the shouting that is going on in the media and what seems to me as the willingness of well-intentioned people to believe whatever is said by those who shout the loudest.
The three words that really stick out for me in the prayer from ELW are hatred, cruelty, and revenge. What would it look like if we put the things that we hear and say through two filters? The first filter would be: is what I am hearing or saying filled with hate, cruelty or revenge? And the second filter would have to come from Luther’s explanation to the 8th commandment (can we ever hear this enough?): We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret EVERYTHING (my emphasis) they do in the best possible light.
I do realize that this isn’t easy and I would be lying if I said that I never break this commandment. But this one of God’s commandments and we shouldn’t dismiss it simply because it is hard. I think we can all agree that the world would be a better place if we came to the defense of our neighbors, spoke well of them, and interpreted everything that they did in the best possible light. (This commandment is also fun to apply to marriage, friendship and really anytime we have to communicate with another human being.)
Our world is filled with hate, some of it is extreme and some of it is mundane. As Christians, we have a duty to speak and act in a different way. Do we add to the shouts that are happening all around us or can we find a way to speak to one another with respect, honor and encouragement? If you want to shout and cry out, then do it on behalf of the poor and the marginalized and all others who have no voice in our society. Otherwise, we would all do well to repeat to ourselves Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV)