I am not sure if Jesus is telling us to like our enemies, but he is quite clear that we are to love them.

In an abstract watercolour, filled with brilliant floral colours, a white dove flies near a red heart shape.
Credit: Nadia Minic, Flickr  (CC BY 2.0)
Most of Canada celebrated a long weekend recently, and in several provinces, the February holiday is called Family Day. The holiday’s name is a good reminder for all of us about the importance of appreciating our families and spending time together with those we love. I appreciated that my son (and his girlfriend) were willing to enjoy family time with me in Port Stanley over the weekend, including dinner one night with my two brothers and a nephew.

Family life can get obscured in the details of daily living, and it is important to take time to remember how important our families are to us.

In the passage from Luke in this week’s gospel, Jesus offers up a greater challenge for us. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

Enemies is a pretty strong word. How many of us have enemies anyway? Well, maybe not open hostility or gunfire kinds of enemies, but I suspect that we can all admit that there are some people who we just don’t agree with, some people whose behaviour we don’t admire, some people perhaps who always seem to give us a hard time or present barriers to the things we want to do. Maybe not many, but most of us will have people who we find hard to like.

I am not sure if Jesus is telling us to like our enemies, but he is quite clear that we are to love them. It’s a tall order, and one that is probably impossible to relate to the kind of love that we were celebrating last week on Valentine's Day.

How are we to love the people about whom we don’t feel a warm emotional response when we think of them? The ones who get our backs up. I think what Jesus is directing us towards is a different kind of love, something that we might demonstrate through respect, compassion, and openness to different points of view, and a general assumption that the other person means well. Those may be difficult, but they are the kind of practical things that we can work on.

It’s a daunting goal, but one that I am in some way grateful for. And part of what makes me grateful is my understanding that I do not need to be perfect to be worthy of God’s love.   Blessings,

Nora  

— Nora Sanders is General Secretary of The United Church of Canada. 

This message was originally sent to subscribers to the General Secretary's letter, "Note from Nora." Subscribe here.