There is something deeply compelling about these words. Even if we don’t believe in a God, there is a very good chance that we believe that a world in which people truly loved one another would be a much better world than the one we have. Even if we believe that it’s simply unrealistic to expect us to love our enemies (if we have any), we can see that our lives would be so much better if those enemies loved us. We know that the world cannot have too much love.
There is also something deeply uncomfortable about these words. There is no wriggle room in them. When a lawyer skilled in obfuscation tried to find some, it provoked Jesus to tell a simple story that has inspired actions of compassion and justice by his followers in every century since its first telling. Those actions demonstrate that Jesus’ exhortations to his disciples – to live lives of love: love for God, neighbour and even for enemies – were not merely a set of aspirational yet ultimately unrealistic values or goals. On the contrary, they were intended to mould us into a way of living and being.
Of course it’s daunting. Of course we discover, over and over again, that we really do suck at this. Which is why I find a prayer of Brother Roger of Taizé so meaningful:
God of mercy,
enable us to wait for you
and to welcome
the look of love
with which you contemplate
each of our lives.
It takes us back to first principles. We must know love in order to love. This prayer reminds us of the constant, unrelenting love God has for all of us. This is the LOVE out of which we can learn to love God in return, love our neighbour and love our enemy.
Written by Steve Bradbury. Steve is speaking at SURRENDER 17 Embodying The Way. To find out more and register click here or visit our conference page.