(Luke 6:27-38) – J G White
11 am, Sun, Feb 24, 2019 – UBC Digby
We have this little problem of evil in the world. And even the world still admits that. I heard a CBC ‘The Current’ interview with Canadian Psychologist Julia Shaw. She’s author of “Evil: the Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side.” Dr. Shaw says we should be careful about labeling anyone as evil.
Anna Maria Tremonti: Why is there a pushback against trying to understand or show empathy to the serial killer, or the pedophile, or the nazi?
Julia Shaw: I think it’s really easy to simplify human behaviour and label it as evil. I think it’s really difficult for us to introspect and hold up the mirror and say “what do I perhaps have inside myself that could lead me down a dark path?” And that could lead me to commit these types of crimes, for example. And I think it is really difficult to engage with yourself on that level and to really think through your own morality and to challenge yourself to accept that you probably have darkness lurking inside you; and how we we prevent it from getting out?And it’s much easier to say, “I’m a good person; other people are evil.”
A scientist corroborates scripture: ‘you probably have darkness lurking inside you.’
We have, on top of this, ‘The Golden Rule’ – a term coined by Anglicans more than 400 years ago. What is that rule? We just read it, from Luke 6.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. The Golden Rule. But, what is gold about loving enemies? Loving enemies is impossible! It is ‘To Dream the Impossible Dream.’ One Bible commentator says this about Luke chapter 6.
To love an enemy is simply impossible, for an enemy is by definition someone hated rather than loved. An enemy who is loved is no longer an enemy. (Charles C. Cousar et al, Texts for Preaching – Year C, 1994, p. 157)
It can be so automatic, so built-into us to make enemies and to protect ourselves. In his remarkable book, Disarming Scripture, Derek Flood deals with our built-in fear and fight reactions to an enemy or threat. Our brains automatically react. He tells this personal anecdote:
The other day our 5-year-old daughter had a “meltdown.” She’s screaming, and I’m feeling triggered. My [primitive brain] has kicked in now; but I do my best to pull myself together, and, taking her by the hand, I bring her to her room for a time-out. When we get there, she screams at me hysterically, demanding I give her a hug.
Now mind you, I’m not feeling compassion right then–I’m mad. …I’m… thinking, “I don’t want to reward this selfish behaviour with a hug!”
But something in me knew – as much as I didn’t feel like doing it at the time – that she really did need that hug. So… I put my arms around her and held her. And when I did, a miniature miracle happened: All her distress, panic, and rage just melted away.
This simple act of kindness broke the hurtful dynamic my daughter and I were both caught in. That’s the core working principle of enemy love: Do not be overcome by anger, but overcome anger with kindness…
Paul tells us that as we walk in this way of the Spirit, we will be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.”(Derek Flood, Disarming Scripture, 2014, pp. 184-186)
We believe in miracles of the human heart. Little ones, and big ones. The real gold of loving enemies is both when those who are not our enemies get treated rightly, and when we stop being enemies of those who oppose us.
Perhaps this goes hand-in-hand with not judging. Jesus leads us into ways of letting go of our harsh criticism and value judgments of other people. Even the simple habit of me telling myself, “Don’t judge too harshly,” can become a real spiritual discipline, and a miracle of the Spirit within me. Goodness to our opponents can become real gold to us – something we value and go after.
In his book, Derek Flood talks about being selfish or self-centered. The opposite, he says, is not being unselfish. That language is still paying too much attention to oneself. The opposite is being social- focused, paying attention to others. (pp. 179-180) We value doing unto others good, more than getting benefits and blessings for ourselves.
Sharon and I have a grandson, almost six years old. One thing Dryden loves is marching bands. He will simply march around the house and get us to follow. He, the drum major leading the band, leading the parade. So much of our play, as children, is about how to be the boss, be in charge, get attention.
Let me take a page now from someone’s else’s sermon. I won’t tell you whose – it will become clear. A sermon that was called ‘The Drum Major Instinct.’
And you know, we begin early to ask life to put us first. Our first cry as a baby was a bid for attention. And all through childhood the drum major impulse or instinct is a major obsession.
Now, in adult life, we still have it, and we really never get by it. We like to do something good. And you know, we like to be praised for it… And somehow this warm glow we feel when we are praised or when our name is in print is something of the vitamin A to our ego… But everybody likes to be praised because of this real drum major instinct.
There comes a time that the drum major instinct can become destructive. For instance, if it isn’t harnessed, it causes one’s personality to become distorted.
Do you know that a lot of the race problem grows out of the drum major instinct? A need that some people have to feel superior.
And not only does this thing go into the racial struggle, it goes into the struggle between nations. And I would submit to you this morning that what is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy.
Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator—that something that we call death.
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize— that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.
I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.
I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.
I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.
[That’s all from ‘The Drum Major Instinct’, preached by Martin Luther King, Jr., Feb 4, 1968 at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA.]
May our hearts beat to a different drum – that of Jesus. The One who preached: You will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)
We sometimes sing words inspired by Malachi 3:3
Purify my heart, (Brian Doersken)
Let me be as gold and precious silver.
Purify my heart; Let me be as gold, pure gold.
The impossibility of being like God, as good as God, is prayed for once again. The Saviour preaches it once again, to us.
So, love your enemies. Start with the ones in our province, in your town, on your street, in the same room as you. This life is all about my enemy becoming not my enemy anymore.
When someone takes from you: give, share, let go. Bless without expectations. This life is about my coat not being my coat anymore.
Do not judge, do not condemn. This life is about my ways not being my ways, but God’s ways.
Jesus takes us there. Nothing is impossible with God? Yes, nothing is impossible. (Luke 1:27) Even finding gold deep in the human heart.