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#86 Love Your Enemies

Summary: 

It's not easy to love your enemies, especially when they do something terrible. But it's the Christian way, and it's possible because Christ has defeated hatred and fear with forgiveness and love. It's possible because He defeated death with His own death.

Questions:

1) Why must we forgive those who do wrong to us?

2) Why do we pray for our enemies?

3) What happens if we don't forgive those who do wrong to us?

Links:

Bible Gateway, Luke 23

Orthodox Way of Life, Forgiveness

Ancient Faith Radio, "The Illumined Heart," What Does Forgiveness Really Mean?

Script:

Hey everybody, this is Steve and when we Christians talk about loving our enemies, do we really mean it? Christianity isn't easy, it's full of struggles. The struggle to pray, to fast, to help those in need, to love God with all our mind, heart and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And of all of these, the struggle to love our enemies may be the most challenging. I mean, it's easy to say it but much harder to do, especially in the face of hatred and violence. Last week was, to put it mildly, awful. Terrorists struck Beirut and Paris, killing so many people, leaving so much trauma and pain in their wake. And my heart just breaks for all those people who had to endure those terrible moments. Even though it was really disappointing that the news basically ignored the tragedy in Beirut, it was at least reassuring to see so many people around the world display the French flag in solidarity with our friends overseas. Solidarity with regular people, just like you and me, who were enjoying the peace of a Friday evening when it was shattered by gunfire and explosions and screams and loss.

Our first response to anything should be prayers, so before we go any further, I hope you'll join me in prayer for the victims. "Lord, grant your mercy and healing to all those who were injured in these attacks. Grant comfort to the family and friends of all those who were affected and remember in Your Kingdom all those who were lost. We ask this in Your Name, Christ our God, together with Your beginningless Father and Your All Holy Good and Life giving Spirit ". But here's where it gets difficult. What about the attackers? Is it possible to pray for them? To forgive them, to love them? It's not easy, not even close. I was born and raised in New York, I remember how the city felt after the September 11th attacks. How forgiveness was the last thing on my mind. I remember how overwhelmed I felt by anger and fear.

And these two responses seem pretty common after the attacks of Beirut and Paris, anger that anyone could do something so terrible, fear that it may happen again. Before we can talk about forgiveness and whether it's possible to truly love our enemies, we need to first talk about death. For many of us, death is the worst thing imaginable. Something used by governments to punish criminals and used by criminals to terrorize innocent people. I get how scary death is, but I also know that the Church looks at death very differently. As Christians, we don't simply believe in an abstract God off in a distant Heaven, we believe that God took on flesh and suffered and was crucified for us, that He lay in the darkness and terror of the tomb until the Third Day, when He rose. We believe that we too will rise in Christ, that the Saints are alive in Christ.

We believe that death, just like the Cross, has been transformed from an instrument of terror into an instrument of mercy and life. Transformed from an end into a new beginning. Our path as Christians, as human beings is shaped by whether we choose to join Christ in this new Life, by whether we choose to focus on our sins and repent rather than judge others. Whether we choose to see the good in others and join God in extending to them our unconditional love. A love that Christ expressed after He was beaten and mocked, when, as He hung from the Cross, He prayed "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do." In dying on the Cross, Christ showed us that He is willing to go to any length to love us, no matter what sins we may commit and we, who have united ourselves to His sacrifice, are called to love with His unconditional love.

If we begin to forgive and pray for those who cause suffering in this world, who perpetrate evil in this world, just as Christ forgave those who condemned Him and executed Him, then we will take one step closer to loving all people as Christ loves all people. And look, I know that this is easier to say than actually do. I know that my heart hasn't been fully formed by the truth of the Gospel. That my faith is still shallow. That I'd react very differently if I had to love someone who hurt me or forgive someone who hurt me or my friends or family. So I want to share with you the strength and love of true Christians, who are true witnesses of Christ.

A few months ago, twenty-one people were captured and brutally martyred, praising Christ with their last breath. And as remarkable as that was, it was even more incredible when their families actually forgave the people who attacked them. They were able to do that because had they tasted God's eternal Kingdom. Because the seed of the Gospel had really taken root in their hearts because they too had been forgiven and loved. With Christ as their firm Support, they knew that they could be free of the weight of hatred and fear because Christ has overcome hatred and fear with forgiveness and love. It may not be easy, but it's what Christ calls us to do, it's what He gives us the strength to do by destroying death and inviting us to eternal Life.

The eternal Life and the eternal Love that we taste every Divine Liturgy when we see that God's Kingdom truly is at hand. It's not easy, but if we want to have any hope of loving our enemies, we should start by loving our family, our friends, our neighbors, those in need. And we can always pray for everyone, those who are for us to love and those who are more difficult for us to love. By doing this, we can begin to overcome the hatred and darkness with the love, forgiveness and peace that only comes from Christ. So let's Be the Bee and begin to forgive our enemies. Be the Bee and Live Orthodoxy. Remember to like and subscribe and share. I'll see you all next week.

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