By Kate Hanch
There’s something about loving our enemies that makes us uneasy and anxious. It goes against our gut feelings and automatic responses. In a world of many polarizing politics and reality television that capitalizes on finding the scapegoat, and too few stories of reconciliation and peace, Jesus must have not meant for us to follow this command literally. This commandment is much too hard.
Or perhaps we have a limited perspective. Martin Luther King suggested we need to look at the Sermon on the Mount from God’s point of reference. We should put on our “God glasses” and imagine how God might view the world.
God created every human being in God’s image, from Osama Bin Laden to Gandhi to homeless man under the overpass to the 3-year-old in Sunday school. To love our enemies is work toward realizing the reign of God.
When we put God’s glasses on, we see God in partnership with humanity to bring about the full reign of God. When we put God’s glasses on, we unite with God in turning the world, as my preaching professor Mike Graves says, right-side up.
Part of turning the world right-side up involves redefining who the enemy is and how we are to respond.
Justo Gonzalez, a Cuban-born theologian, realized that he was looking at Jesus’ teaching from the wrong position. He asked the question “What if I’m the enemy?” From Gonzalez’s perspective, to be in the position of the enemy is easier than one realizes.
My mentor, Pastor Kathy Pickett, told me of her conversation with Toni Buffalo, a Lakota woman who partners with Together for Hope, a CBF initiative.
Toni told her of her initial difficulties in coming to church and embracing the Christian lifestyle. For years, the church had been a hindrance instead of a help, forcing the Lakotas to conform to a language and way of worship that had harmed Lakota traditions and spirituality.
These churches were often associated either explicitly or passively, with the U.S. policies that limited the voice and the freedom of the Lakotas and other Native American peoples. We could have enemies, but we could also be the enemy.
What would it be like to imagine a world turned right-side up, where we as people of God love our enemies? In a world turned right-side up, could we imagine asking forgiveness of those we have hurt? What then would the reign of God look like?
We know God’s reign might not be fully realized in our day, but our goal as God’s children and Christ’s siblings is to give glimpses of the kingdom by loving those who seem to hate us — regardless of nationality or Baptist brand — but by also giving an ear to those whom we may have hurt.
We picture what Jesus had in mind when he imagined what the reign of God might look like — a community where there is mutual sharing of love, listening and reconciliation; a world where reciprocity thrives. And even if some people don’t want to participate in what the reign of God might look like, we can still love them, for in God’s eyes, they are our dear sisters and brothers.
Turning the world right-side up might look like listening to stories and accounts of people whom we have hurt through our actions and inactions. Turning the world right-side up may mean asking forgiveness on behalf of the church universal for its abuses or neglect.
CBF may have been born from conflict, but we don’t need to stay there — and we aren’t. I’m thankful in the many and various ways that CBFers are partnering with God from Ethiopia to the Texas border, from Miami to Slovakia, from Thailand to Kentucky. I look forward to joining with fellow goodwill Baptists, with Christ Jesus as our guide, to help turn the world right-side up.