By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Donor Communications
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).
The words of Jesus have always been radical. He carefully, yet firmly, addressed the concerns of the day and called his peers and adversaries into the transformative, often uncomfortable ways of God. For the Jews who had been scorned and oppressed by other nations for generations, the call to love enemies was not an easy one. It meant laying aside pain and pride, and offering care to those who had brought them harm. It meant working for the good of others whether or not the gesture was returned.
In a world where actions typically provoke similar reactions, this enemy-loving way of living can seem both ridiculous and risky. It’s natural to be stirred with anger when someone inconveniences you. It’s easy to justify retaliation when someone spreads destructive lies about you or threatens the wellbeing of your loved ones. And yet, it is the script-flipping maneuver of repaying aggression and harm with compassion that makes room for the work of the Holy Spirit. When we choose to offer grace instead of revenge, we allow God to work in us and we invite others—yes, even those who oppose us— to grow more fully into their identities as children of God.
We see this unrelenting love in the work of our partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, and other places. Our sisters and brothers offer help to all who are in need. They reach across cultural divisions and allow programs for trauma healing and peacebuilding to bring restoration for people of an entire community, not simply their own.
In our congregations, we love our opponents (perceived or real) as we reach out into our communities. Through offering recreational or educational opportunities, we create meeting places where people of all walks of life can find common ground and build relationships. By creating safe spaces of hospitality, we invite people of different faiths, beliefs, and opinions to express their concerns and their hopes, and allow everyone to contribute for the well-being of all.
The ministries of the Church of the Brethren embody what it means to love all people, including enemies and opponents, and to work for reconciliation—with others and with God. Will you support this transformative work and join us in sharing the radical love of Jesus?