Thursday, March 3, 2016

Day 19 of Lent: God is Present in the Lives of Our Enemies

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5: 44-45

One of the hardest theological facts to put into practice is the insight that if God is present and active everywhere, then God is present in your enemies as well as your loved ones.  Many of us polarize the world's population in terms of doers of good and evil.  We may even project our own personal or national views on other persons and nations, feeling that they can do no good, while we and our country can do no evil.

In a world of freedom and creativity, God is constantly seeking wholeness in every situation and for every person.  The impact of environment, genetics, and personal choice can limit the experience of God in our lives and in the lives of others.  Despite God's desire for shalom for all creation, some persons consistently choose violence, self-interest, and destruction.

We can see the tragic impact of destructive decision making in the lives of past leaders who brought about tragic consequences for masses of people because of their own skewed ways of viewing individuals and entire groups of people.  Although God's voice was trying to speak to them, they chose hatred and violence over God's call to them to repentance, transformation, and new life.

At times, our own anger and self-preoccupation can cloud our experience of God's vision for our lives.  But God is still speaking and working within our personal conflicts and tendencies to be isolated from others.  When we encounter violence and injustice, God may inspire us not only to love the evildoer but also to restrain future evil through protection, confrontation,and political involvement.

Jesus loved outsiders as God's beloved children---prisoners, prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors were all loved by Jesus and treated with respect.  He taught that God causes the light to shine on the righteous as well as the unrighteous.  The light of God shines in and on our enemies as well as our friends.

When we see the light of God within ourselves and others, we cultivate a holy self-affirmation that embraces the other as God's beloved child, despite our differences.  Grounded in the vision of God's presence in every person, we challenge injustice and treat others with reverence and respect.

Think about this:
God loves my enemies as well as me.
I experience God's presence in difficult persons at times.
I experience God's presence in persons who are not like me.

God, whose love embraces all things, awaken us to your love for those whom we call enemies.  Give us wisdom to see your presence in those who challenge or threaten us.  Let us work for justice and peace and reconciliation, trusting your love when our love reaches its limits.  In partnership with your all-embracing love, let us bring shalom to this good earth.  Amen.

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