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A true Christian Challenge

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sermon for the twenty-first Sunday after Trinity
Surely, the most radical idea that Jesus teaches us is to love our enemies. The very persons who are making our lives miserable, the people who go out of their way to belittle us, tread on us, and abuse us is no many ways, our haters, our bullies, our rapists and murderers, we are to love them no less than those who love us and whom we love.
This is troubling to say the least. Can you imagine a Jew loving Hitler, or a mother loving the priest who abused her son?
That truly is difficult and may not even be possible for men. Yet, we know that some things are impossible for men, but all things are possible with God. We must, at the very least, be prepared to pray for the salvation of our enemies. We must try our best and let God sort things out.
Yet, the Lord commands us the near-impossible, Why? Doesn’t He contradict the old testament where the Psalmist tells God that he hates the enemies of God right sore even if they were his own enemies? What are we to make of the hatred of the Hebrew in exile in Babylon who blesses the person who takes the children of Babylon and dashes them against the stones?
What are we to do with hatred?
St Paul has a possible answer.
My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
St Paul is clear. It isn’t other human beings that we’re fighting against. Every war, battle and skirmish arise not from men, but from principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places. Adolph Hitler must have got his vile ideas from somewhere. Anti-Semitism was rife in Europe at the time of his rise to power. As we have seen with the issues of Brexit, it doesn’t take much from wanting a little more control over immigration to the increase in hate crime against asylum seekers and even outright racist acts that has occurred since the referendum. Likewise, it doesn’t take much from wanting to adhere to the doctrine of God that marriage only occurs between a man and a woman to treating homosexuals as scum.
The ideas to do evil must come from somewhere and what we learn most from the opening chapters of Genesis, evil comes into the world because it tempts men and women to let it into the world.
Every single human being is an ikon of God. They bear His image within them. There are absolutely no exceptions. Jimmy Saville is as much an ikon of God as Billy Graham. That’s not to say that God is just as visible in the acts of one as the other. Clearly the one who abuses the vulnerable does not ACT like God. Clearly, the one who proclaims the Kingdom of God and works his whole life to bringing the message to those who hear it is trying to act like God.
We are to love them both regardless.
Let us also be clear. To love someone means to will them the good that God gives.
To love our enemies means to recognise our common humanity and to treat them with the same justice that we would expect for ourselves. To love our enemies doesn’t mean that we let them go scot-free. It means that we bring them to justice in fairness and putting aside our feelings of anger, rage, fury and hurt that bubble up inside us. We bring them to justice so that they may be free to repent. It is not the person we must hate: it is the act they have committed and the ideas, temptations, and spirits that have influenced them that we are to hate.
St Benedict tells us that, whenever we have an evil thought, we are to dash it upon the Rock that is Our Lord Jesus Christ. This gives us the key of how we must deal with hatred. The enemy of God is Evil, and we are to hate Evil with every fibre of our being because Evil separates us from God. All that hatred in the Old Testament, both Jesus and St Paul tell us not to direct at people, but to the spiritual powers, dominions, and principalities that cause human beings to fall away. When you read those savage Psalms about hoping your enemy dies a horrible death, it is about the influence of the Devil who will die a horrible death in the fires of Hell for all Eternity.
Once we get it into our heads that every single human being who has ever lived, who lives and who will ever live is precious to God, and therefore precious to us, then and only then will we begin to heal from the effects of Evil. We are to use God’s gifts of Truth, Faith, Peace, His Righteousness and Justice, Salvation – even the presence of the Holy Ghost with us! – to combat Evil where it lies – not in men and women, but in ideas, suggestions, temptations and influences that come into our own heads. Our fight lies within ourselves first, then in fighting to see God in all people around us. Hard work indeed, but all things are possible with God if we have faith in Him.

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