The Word: Matthew 5:38-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Abba in heaven; for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your siblings, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be whole, therefore, as your heavenly Abba is whole.
When I think about the people in life who teach us lessons, the ones who guide us to step back and really think about serious issues, about the way we value humanity and how we treat one another, I am always taken aback by how often those people are people who have faced a lot of pain in their lives.
They are the ones who have faced heartache Who have faced bullying
Who have faced rejection
And yet, here they are—speaking up, being leaders, giving the world more love.
There are so many people I think about when I think about these kind of people. Do you know these kind of people?
They are the ones who could have turned inward and crumbled due to the amount of difficulties they have experienced in life—and yet, by some miraculous force, they turn outward. They shine. And they also reach out and help others.
Many of the people I am thinking of in my own life are people who identify as LGBTQ.
They have faced so much and yet they are the first ones to step up when someone needs help.
I can’t help but notice this correlation of people who are so kind and compassionate are often people who have been very hurt in the past. It inspires me to examine my own life and it also inspires me to continue advocating for the LGBTQ community.
So you can understand how baffled I was when I read a news article that a bill was introduced this spring in the Minnesota House of Representatives that wants to cut state funding to local libraries that host drag queen story hour.
It took a second for my brain to even wrap around it. Cut state funding for a children’s reading program because of drag queens?
I recall a post I saw on social media about drag queens and children. It read: “What is your opinion of drag queens around children?”
The person replied: ‘I am against drag queens being exposed to children. A lot could go wrong. Nails could be broken, wigs pulled off, someone could get knocked off her heels. Children are wild, irrational, and unpredictable, and their characters are still in the formative stages. Someone fabulous could get hurt.”
I had to chuckle. What a great response to all the hoopla surrounding drag queens and children. I thought of that post when I thought of the bill that was being proposed.
And then after my laughter came my anger.
We are in a fragile place in our society and rather than put our energy toward things like reducing gun violence, fixing our health care system, or eliminating hunger—cutting state funding to drag queen story hour? It doesn’t make sense to me. It angers me that we have serious problems on our hands and representatives are wasting energy pointing fingers at a group of people who do nothing but bring more love and creativity in this world.
I don’t understand the bill or the people who put it together. But I do understand fear.
We fear what we don’t know. I took my anger and I researched who wrote that proposed bill against the drag queens and I looked at their faces on my computer screen. And I took all my fury and disappointment and I prayed for them.
I prayed for their hearts to break open. For them to have experiences of people with different expressions of creativity, different expressions of love than they do. For the minds to be expanded. We know what fear hates—fear hates experiences that open us to love. So I prayed for their hearts to have those experiences. For them to experience the radical love I’ve witnessed in the drag world and LGBTQ community.
Then I prayed for the libraries and for strength to push against this kind of hatred. Because we also need that too.
Something that speaks strongly to me in our text for today about loving our enemies and praying for our enemies is that we don’t have to agree with our enemies. We don’t have to hug them and move in with them.
There are three words for love that the world of ancient Greece used. Pastor Rachael talked about them earlier this month, do you remember them? The first is philios, like a fraternal or friendly love, the second is eros, romantic love, and the third is agape, which can translate into goodwill or benevolence.
I like to think of it in terms of coexisting.
Jesus invites us to coexisit with one another—not to pack up and move in with one another and agree on everything—but coexisit. Peacefully.
So what does this look like?
I think it looks like non-violence opposition. Peaceful conversations and demonstrations.
It looks like putting up some really good boundaries with those around us, both in our families and in our communities.
It looks like picking and choosing our battles, and knowing that there is dignity in walking away from an argument and not giving it your energy if you don’t feel like giving it energy.
And maybe, maybe it also looks like praying for people’s hearts to be broken open when some folks do really confusing things like try to pass a bill that limits drag queen story hour at the library.
Jesus came into the world to turn some things around, and we continue living in to that discipleship today.
Reflecting on Jesus words for our outward actions is good, but I also think it’s good to pause and turn inward.
I often think of how true this quote is:
“God told me love my enemies. So I obeyed God and loved myself.”
How often are we our own worst enemy?
How often are we the ones second guessing ourselves, doubting ourselves, and even hating on ourselves.
So this week I invite you to not only agape love and pray for your enemies—but pray for yourself, to do what you need to do to love yourself fully.
After all, there is a little of God in everyone. Even the people we don’t like, even if that includes ourselves.
With social distancing happening from coronavirus and closing of work, universities, and other community gathers—take this time to really dive into the word of God and ask yourself—how is God speaking through this text? What does following the path of Jesus mean for me in my everyday life?
Take time to pray for yourself and for others.
Take time to reassess your boundaries with others. And take time to examine and love yourself.
We won’t be having communion in our worship service today but I invite you to consider ways you can be the living word of God. We are already doing that by staying home and showing love to our most vulnerable neighbor.
Let us pray:
Holy one—thank you for inviting us to this imperfect world and wild community. Continue to give us hope and strength to pray for ourselves and for each other. We pray for peace, for understanding, and for all people working together for the common good. Continue to guide our hearts and minds that our thoughts might become our actions and our actions might be representative of your love for us. In your name we pray, amen.