We are packing up. I’m pretending that we aren’t really leaving, or that this will all be a fantastic adventure, or that this week is just a really fun one in which I get to go to lots of parties and see lots of friends (and since I’m pretty introverted, this is some exhausting fun, though so worth it). In the middle of this, I’ve been sitting with our text this week, holding our departure at the edges of my brain so I can ostensibly think clearly.
It hasn’t worked so well. I’ve had 3 false starts on this darn email, and it’s because I love you all, and am sad I won’t get to see your faces every week. Saying goodbye to you is hard. The things I love in life are particular: in the philosophical sense, love is a wide umbrella. In practice, love happens in very specific relationships in very specific contexts.
Who do you love? What draws your affection? Where are the places your spirit tells you, “This place is home”? I’m asking because, in this week where I’m thinking so much about the love of friends, the lectionary passage is about what I view as Christianity’s most revolutionary teaching: the love of enemies. Love is particular – and so is hatred. For ire to be so real and deep to qualify as hatred, it must be directed towards something specific. So it seems that to engage this world-subverting subject, we have to be willing to do some very specific self-reflection that holds a mirror to our deepest loves and the things we actually hate.
Frederick Buechner says we don’t really talk much about real enemies these days. His hunch is that while we like to think that’s because we’re more “civilized,” it’s actually because we’re a bit cowardly. Rather, he says, “we smolder…when we declare war, it is mostly submarine warfare, and since our attacks are beneath the surface, it may be years before we know fully the damage we have given or sustained.” In other words, to even begin the journey towards loving an enemy, we have to first see them – we have to recognize an ugly response that lives within us, rather than ignoring it. It is a tall order, this transformation. Love, as in, willing all goodness for the abuser, for the prejudiced, for the ones who smugly enjoy our struggles. Somehow, love has to be the response when it is impossible, as well as when it comes naturally. Jesus’ words flip the “eye for an eye” world on its head, dismantling the logic of “take care of our own,” and heralding a revolution.
I hope you’ll join us Sunday at Kidd Springs, 11am. We have lots to talk about. There will be probably be public crying on my part, so be forewarned…