Friday, March 22, 2013

Love Your Frienemies?

Good morning!  Today is the final day of week eleven, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are Deuteronomy 4-5 and Luke 6.

In our (NIV) Luke passage, Jesus talks about loving our enemies:

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Sometimes, those "enemies" that Jesus is talking about may be people in our own families.  Nobody said that living together would be easy.  Members of our household, or our extended families, can be both our friends and our enemies at the same time.  Also, our churches are good opportunities for this kind of relationship.  We say, "Bless her heart, I love her--in Christ."  But that doesn't mean you expect for them to love you back.  In fact, the only kind of love you can give to some people is the agape love of God, that unconditional love that says, "Whether you're nice to mean or mean to me, I choose to give you Jesus' love anyway." One moment these people are worshiping with you or barbecuing with you, and the next moment they're plotting against you.  Urban Dictionary defines these people as "frienemies," and describes them as:

"...squash players i.e a person who you travel the pro squash circuits, hang around with each other, share life stories and rooms but all the time are looking for weaknesses with you to have the edge over you in competition such as spotting your illness/injury are. You run out of sports drink , your frienemy will not give you a tiny bit of theirs until they have finished their competition, even though they have more than they need."

We all have family members like that--you love them, and they love you, but you'd better not turn your back or they'll stab it.  How does Jesus suggest we deal with these people?  Love them.  Continue loving them.  Do good to them, and bless them.  But don't trust them.

Did I just say not to trust them?  Yep.  That's what I said.  Notice that when Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, he didn't say to turn our backs.  When you turn the other cheek, you're offering up a certain amount of vulnerability, but you're not exposing yourself wholeheartedly either.  John 2 (NLT) says:

23 Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. 25 No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

Some people become predictable frienemies.  Don't trust them.  Jesus never said you had to trust these folks.  He only said to love them, bless them, pray for them, and do good to them.  But He never said to trust them.  

Jesus said that we should "lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."  Today, I want to extend this concept of lending beyond mere money.  This principle applies to money, to be sure, but I believe it involves more than just that.  Sometimes our frienemies will ask for our time, our moral support, our cooperation in a worthy cause, our sympathy, or our emotional investment in their lives.  Jesus said that we should give these things without expecting them to respond in kind.  That's a tough thing to do--because when I invest in someone, I generally want them to give a rip about me, too.  When I cooperate with someone on their projects, it'd be nice if they'd work with me on mine.  When I'm there to comfort someone in their time of crisis, it sure would be great if they'd be there for me when I'm struggling.  But they won't be.  I can guarantee that they won't be.  So naturally, I want to withhold my support, cooperation, time, and sympathy from them.  But Jesus tells me to give it to them anyway.  Without expecting anything back.  Do it, even if you don't want to--not because they deserve it (which, likely, they don't).  Do it as an act of mercy.

God has been so merciful to you--even though you don't deserve it.  When you think about it, we're God's frienemies, too.  He created us, provides for us, heals, comforts, and saves us.  He speaks wisdom to our hearts, cares about our problems, and even promises us a place in heaven.  And yet we are unreliable, untrustworthy, and ungrateful for what He does.  It is our hands that slap Him in the face, yet He turns his cheek again and again.  

Everyone has at least one frienemy--whether that's a member of your household, your extended family, your church family, your classmates at school, or your associates at work.  Jesus asks us to be generous with our love.  Romans 5:10 (ESV) says, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."  Jesus calls us to reconciliation by His grace--and He calls us to share that reconciliation just as freely as He gives it.

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