domingo, 16 de febrero de 2014

The Love of Enemies

The Gospel reading for today gives us a striking title: "The love of enemies." It is easy to love our friends. It is easy to love our brothers (relatives or colleagues). Less easily it is to love our neighbor without any distinction.

But … What does Jesus want to say to us by this talk?

In this passage, after the Beatitudes, Jesus confronted the Jewish people listening to him in their presentations and He uses two important contrasts:

1. " If you love only those who love you, do not even the publicans do the same?"

          Who are the collectors for the Jewish people of that time? Imagine for a moment the atmosphere where teaching takes place. The Jewish people are under the power of the Romans. Technically, the tax collector is the "official" responsible for collecting taxes (which were many) that the people should pay the government of Rome. Emotionally, the publicans were undesirable because people became more and more poor people. Jesus confronts the Jewish attitude to the behavior of the "undesirable person". Are you able to love those who love you? That the publicans do too! What is different about you, who are the people of the promises and the people away from God?

2. "And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”

          Who were the Gentiles to the Jewish people? Gentiles or pagans (as recognized) were the people who were not Jews. We understand Jews who profess the Jewish religion. Etymologically, the Gentiles were the people who lived in the countryside, away from the cities. Historically, they soon became Christians because Christ's message was oral and person-to-person took longer to reach them. Hence they are also known as "non-Christian" or pagans. I imagine that the Jew who receives this direct teaching of Jesus Christ and feel compared to a person who is not Jewish, it feels touched in his pride. If you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than? Will you only fellowship Jews with Jews? That so do those who are not! What is the merit that can have this behavior in you, God's chosen people?

So Jesus, in short, the heart quivers of their "tracks", compares their behavior with the behavior of "undesirables" and "outsiders" to its laws and principles.

We could say that the method Jesus used this time is based on the "painful lessons". The "painful learning theory" simply says that all learning is painful because we need to replace or modify what we have learned before, and this is not easy: start or remove something that is already part of us to put in place something new or refurbished.

Are you going to do as publicans ("undesirable people") or as the Gentiles ("strangers")? Jesus asks: What is the merit of this for those who profess the Jewish religion, what do you do in this particular way?
But we do not run with these ideas only confrontation. Jesus also proposes a profound change in the Jewish people and teaches them how to achieve a structure of meaning as well:

He is the Master: do not be conformed only to collectors or Gentile similar behaviors. He did not come to scrap laws that were already established in the Jewish people since ancient times. He is not saying "eliminate that you learned from your parents and grandparents, and throw it away."

So what Jesus intends us to do? After all, Jesus told that we are to be perfect “just as your Father in heaven is perfect”. To be "saints" in the biblical sense means "specially related to God", we have a special relationship with God from the world and what is contaminated. Who live in the pursuit of perfection, as our Father in heaven is perfect, "he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, which sends rain on the just and unjust." This is perhaps the key lesson that Jesus wants to give us, "without distinction."

Then I will present a likeness of what I understand is the "way of the Christian" with "pole vault athlete": When I was 18 years old, chose to be baptized and decided to follow Christ (I mean, be follower of Jesus Christ and his teachings), was an expectant couple with the future ahead of Protestant Christian family for generations ... and I was not sure what I would find in this way.

Life has made me relate the Christian way with the "constant" and "persevering" athlete training. For example, we cannot pretend that the novice athlete to make the most jump the first time holds the pole. Nor can we aspire to the novice athlete to make the leap without the pole. Thanks to the practice of everyday life, thanks to the perseverance and persistence in addressing each challenge jump height, thanks to the study of the physical body for movement laws, thanks to a good pole (that flexible and strong rod that allows you momentum in the right direction), the athlete learns and progresses in their training.

The Christian does not have to have an "exemplary behavior" in society to earn their salvation. Reform-driven predecessors since 1300 and therefore after Luther, Calvin then helps us to "make" our best "pole" have been justified by faith and not by our works. The change in the consciousness of Western man from central and northern Europe with the reformists, also part of "our best pole". We are on the right path and Jesus tells us that we improve our training.

The radical approach proposed by Jesus Christ, and moves our consciousness, our way of being and acting, the way we relate to our neighbor without distinction among them is this: " Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?.” It is a change from within, it is an internal change "me with God," Jesus Christ only as an intermediary.

The ultimate of His love is for us to just be like Him, to be holy; we are to be perfect “just as our Father in heaven is perfect”.

Lord, help us to progress in our Christian walk.
Help us to take our "great leap" to "love our enemies".
We pray for the blessing those who curse us, we ask you to have mercy on those who persecute us, we pray you to lead to challenge us with lawsuits and confrontations that do not lead anywhere. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Author: Lidia Gutiérrez Borobia
Translator: Odalys Álvarez Gutiérrez