Loving Your Enemies is Sweeter Than Honey



There are two realities going on simultaneously in the world. There is the kingdom of God, which Jesus proclaims is at hand and unfolding around us, and there are the patterns which lead to brokenness. Jesus called us to some deeply significant sacrifices. Jesus told us to love our enemies. Loving our enemies doesn't seem sweet. Jesus called us to turn the other cheek. That certainly doesn't seem sweet. Jesus told us to bless those who persecute you. That is not sweet. At least it doesn't appear so at first, but that's where the Spirit taught. Deeper realities come into play in our lives. We know that through the teachings of Jesus, through the witness of the rest of the scripture and through the history of the church, that there are two realities going on simultaneously in the world. There is the kingdom of God, which Jesus proclaims is at hand and unfolding around us. And there are the patterns which lead to brokenness according to the patterns of brokenness. The world is ordered by friend and enemy. Just look at the conflict around the world. The reason for terrorism and war is a result of this ordering. And when we operate on the terms of friends and enemies, we create untenable situations where we open ourselves up to our enemies, lashing out and overpowering us. 


Yet most of us are willing to keep playing into this story and to have it on repeat without little question or thought. The patterns of brokenness are crafty that way. Their specialty is convincing us that what isn't true is reality. If we don't learn to question these cold and hard realities of brokenness, then we will never be able to comprehend the deeper realities of God. Think about the world for a minute that Jesus was born into his family. His community was swallowed up by Roman occupiers. They allowed Jesus's people certain freedoms, but they only allowed them under the expectation that they would fall into line. Zooming in a little bit from the occupiers, there were tensions and divisions, the religious community to which Jesus was born. Some of the leaders had aligned themselves with the Romans and were doing their dirty work. Others set standards that even they themselves could not live up to much less anyone else. And still others were intent on causing chaos both to the Romans and to the religious order. And along comes this sort of Vega behind Rabbi teaching enemy love and praying for those who persecute you. Where is the sweetness in that? 


If the psalmist said this teaching is more bitter than green persimmons, then I could understand that if you've not tasted a green persimmon, then you don't know bitterness. That makes sense. How is enemy love sweeter than honey? The key to the sweeter than honey riddle is what we talk about at journey often, that what's good for Jesus is good for us. Jesus loved his enemies. He laid his life down for them. He knew that they were created in the image of God in the same way as were his friends. Knowing that a person is created in the same image as you, how could you accept the patterns of brokenness which make that person your enemy over the more true reality of the kingdom? That they too are image bearers of God. When you choose to treat your enemy as the patterns of brokenness outline, you are actively trusting more in the patterns of brokenness than you are in the ways of the kingdom of God. In contrast, when you love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, you are bearing witness to the love that God has for you and your mess and in your inability to do right. 


In Romans five, Paul says, God demonstrated his love for us and this that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Richard Rohr, an author and spiritual teacher, wrote The realization is if I could be fully known and loved and seen for what I am, then all I can do is return the compliment to the rest of reality and know back the way I have been known. This is the deeper reality which invites us out of the patterns of brokenness and into the kingdom of God. What is the source of every conflict, both currently and throughout history on a global scale? Well, it's treating our enemies as the patterns of brokenness teach us what is the major source of conflict between individuals? It's treating our enemies the way the patterns of brokenness teach us what is a major source of our own internal conflict. It's treating ourselves as the patterns of brokenness teach us. And if we are able to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, instead it would open up the possibility for the future to be different instead of being played out on repeat. That is pretty sweet. 


But it's hard for us to doubt the power of the sword when the sword gives us an advantage. And if one sword gives us an advantage, imagine how much two swords would give us and 10 swords would give us, and so on and so forth. And what makes this really more difficult as that often Christians who claim to follow the way of Jesus see enemy loving as a pie in the sky ideal that isn't grounded much in our current reality. But the psalmist having sat and meditated on the goodness of God, was convinced that the teachings of the Old Testament, which led Jesus to his enemy loving proclamation are more precious than gold and sweeter than honey is. I suspect that if we sat for a bit to be taught by the Holy Spirit, we might begin to agree that what the Psalmist proclaimed is true.