By Charlsi Lewis Lee
Loving our enemies has got to be one of the most, if not the most difficult, part of following the way of Jesus Christ. Jesus does not gently prod us to change our ways or to subtly alter the way we think about others. Nope. Jesus calls us to leave all of our other stuff behind and love our neighbor as ourselves. Dang. This is hard.
Yes, you already know what I am about to talk about: Burying the Boston Bomber. As horrible, ugly, terrible, painful, and gut wrenching as I can only imagine the victims feel about that dreadful day, those emotions cannot drown our call to love even those who hate us. We are called to live differently.
Grieving is a difficult task for most of us. No one likes it. When we grieve we become raw from the pain and fear of living without the one or the thing we love the most. If we do not honor the grief we drown in the sorrow, or anger, or fear and we are lost for a while—hopefully only a while—in the pain. Our nation is grieving from disaster after disaster where we have lost too many at one time and too many altogether. Our families have wept too much for their children. Children have wept too much for their parents.
Our grief, though, comes not only from the Boston Bombing, it comes from centuries of dedicating ourselves to being set apart from each other in such a way that we are declared “The Winner.” We are better than the Brits because we believe in freedom of religion (really?); we are better than the Indians because we are fully dressed and speak English; we are better than the Mexicans because…well I don’t have an answer for that one. We are better.
Maybe, instead of better, I should say entitled. We are entitled to a peaceful civilization wherein all the good people get all good things in life. Why do we believe that we can go into another person’s country and blow it up and then step back in shock and dismay when it happens in ours? We are not entitled to peace.
Peace is a gift. Peace is developed, nurtured and cared for by its recipients. Peace is honored. Peace is work. It requires from us patience for the time of waiting, endurance for the difficult task, and hope for the time that will be. It requires faith that when we do what is hard, what is against the norm, what is not the most popular thing, that it is the right choice.
On the news this morning, the newscaster reported that the man who is willing to give up a family plot for the Boston Bomber to be buried, is doing so based on the teachings of his mother. He learned it in Sunday school: Love your neighbor. Another newscaster responded after the story, that he wonders if this guy’s mother would really want the Boston Bomber buried next to her. What?
Apparently, that’s precisely what she taught him: that all people deserve to be treated with respect, even when they are mean, cruel, misguided, angry and hate-filled themselves. I think she would be proud to see her son fulfilling the lessons of Jesus Christ. I think she would be amazed at her son’s strength, composure, and faith in the face of a horrendous event. I think she would be honored.
If we are serious about loving those who are not like us—and I hope we are—then this is a pretty big test. If we are serious about doing the work to which we followers of Christ have been called, then it is time for the faithful to rise up and shout: Love is the word.
Loving our enemies is challenging, trench digging work that requires us to get dirty. Loving our enemies is fearful and aggravating work that means we might make a lot of people unhappy (there’s some irony for you). Loving our enemies is grace-filled and hope-endowed work that means that we are living like God’s presence is with us already and we know it.
I hope that my children have heard this message from me. I pray we may know the courage of one stranger extending himself to an enemy and be forever changed. I know that peace, the peace we are searching for as individuals, as a nation, as a world, comes from loving our enemy. And that is not an easy task.