Chapter & verse: Luke 6.27-38
Samantha Sheehan faces the challenge of loving your enemy
‘Love, love, love
‘There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done…
‘All you need is love.’
So sang the Beatles in 1967, seeming to suggest that nothing is impossible when done in love. Love has the power to cross boundaries, allowing you to sing, to craft and create, to gain knowledge and to see. All you need is love.
Surely not. How is it possible to love our enemies? How is it possible to be good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, and pray for those who are cruel? This is a dream, a wish, an impossibility. It’s another one of Jesus’ ambitious sayings which remain unattainable – not a real challenge for us to live in the here and now. Isn’t it?
It’s interesting, though, that we do not find the command to ‘Love your neighbour’ in the Gospel of Luke as we do in the other synoptic gospels.
Instead, we are confronted with this harder, more challenging call to love our enemies; to seek God’s blessing on those who curse us and pray for those who are cruel to us. Even Luke admits it is easy to love those who love us in return, and to be kind to those we know. Anyone can do this. Yet the call is still there: love your enemy.
The love which the Gospel writer talks about is a dangerous kind of sacrificial love that doesn’t expect to receive in return. It is a love which is totally cross-bound: given to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection, empowering us to love unconditionally.
This is another of those instances where Jesus turns the world upside-down, taking the expected and flipping it on its head. It’s an oxymoron, a contradiction: surely an enemy who is loved can no longer be an enemy!
This love is not heart-floating, romantic, lost-in-the-moment love. This love is one of practical living. It is a state of mind. It acknowledges everyone as a child of God with worth and value…
Samantha Sheehan is a special category minister working in Generation Y and Leeds Universities Chaplaincy
This is an extract from an article published in the February 2022 edition of Reform