This morning in church, those of us who gathered together, we said the following words out loud: “We confess that we have been hurt by others.”
– Isn’t it the truth?
I’m sure I’m not assuming much when I say that at one point or another, each of us was hurt by someone else. It may have been intentional or unintentional on their part – still, it usually does not make much of a difference. Once hurt is done, it’s almost impossible for it to get undone. It leaves us broken, maybe just with a little crack, depending on a situation, or maybe it leaves us completely shattered. Broken-hearted. Our trust injured. Our life in pieces.
Yet Jesus, who himself was hurt by many—abused, beaten, betrayed, denied, challenged, questioned, disregarded, and eventually killed—he challenges us, first and foremost, to love. Love those who hurt us also. Love our enemies also.
The thing is, there are six different expressions in the Bible that are translated into one English word, “love.” The expression that Jesus uses as he speaks of loving our enemies is a Greek word, “agape.” And agape does not mean friendship or even liking someone. What agape means is this whole-hearted, and unconditional, and unreserved desire for the well-being of those around you. No revenge, not wishing for the retribution, no payback. And this is precisely how God loves us: Nothing is held back. There is no hesitation. No wavering. No calculation of costs or benefits. No expectation of receiving anything back in return.
To love someone in a biblical manner, as God does, it’s more than just being nice – in fact, it takes much more than just being nice to be a Christian: If you are being wronged, you stand up for yourself. Similarly, if some else is mistreated, you open your mouth and say something to stop it, that’s what it means to follow the teachings of Jesus. And Jesus doesn’t say to passively accept abuse. What Jesus is teaching us, it’s to non-violently resist abuse. Because violence begets violence, but love trumps hate. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Strength eventually fails, power can corrupt, and a survival of the fittest leaves too many bodies on the ground. But love transforms, it changes us, it redeems our circumstances, it unifies our communities, it creates life. It may take time, lots of time, maybe even what seems like eternity, but love can do all that.
And I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy task. So perhaps the best way to chew on this challenge of Jesus is to repeat the words from this morning’s prayer of confession.
– “Holy God, we confess that we have been hurt by others. We confess that love and forgiveness and reconciliation at times are just impossible for us. But we know, we know that nothing is impossible for you. Amen.”
May the God of Love be with you, beloveds,