Loving Those on the Other Side

During the election season in the United States leading up to November 8, we were divided into camps that sometimes seemed like the good guys against the enemy.  Now that the election is over, how do we learn to love our “enemies,” to let it be possible for us to become one people?  What does it take to be enabled to love those with whom we disagree so strongly?

When I turned to the passages in the gospels of Matthew and Luke in which Jesus tells us to love our enemies, I got some ideas.  In Luke the instruction is given to those “who listen,” which means to hear the words and live them.  I find myself needing to acknowledge my feelings, let them go to God, and then to attune myself to God, to let myself become clay in God’s hands.  The temptation is to carry a political or secular agenda, but the invitation is to love.  It’s hard.

In Luke, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, but then adds, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  What I hear in these words is that we are to transcend all the hateful things that others do to us, to rise above all that would diminish us.  The religious practices of the Gullah people on the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina emphasized this ability to transcend, and people who encountered them were amazed at their lack of negativity toward white people, who had brought them there in slavery.  It’s possible.

In Matthew, Jesus reminds us that we are all children of God—“for God makes God’s sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”  I hear a warning here not to think of ourselves or others as the evil ones or the good ones, the superior or inferior.  The judging is God’s job.  Ours is, as Friend Johan Mauer writes, “to live in hope and work to bless the community, . . . not letting anyone get marginalized.”  May it be so.

Queries:

What are your feelings about the election?  How might they become part of your prayer?

How can you attune yourself first to God rather than to the secular world?  How are you called to live in love?

Prayer:  

Holy Lord, in you is love in its fullness. Letting go of all fear, of all anger, of all pride, we entrust ourselves to the light of your love.  Remove every obstacle, Lord, which keeps us from the daunting task you have called all of us to perform: to love each other unconditionally, as you love us.  (Jan Brown, Interim Coordinator, Community for Peace and Nonviolence)

For further reference:

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (See Matthew 22: 34-40.)

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (See Romans 13: 8-10.)

Spiritual Lessons from a Cell Phone

There is no question that cell phones can be addictive and very distracting to the spiritual life. How can it be that they can offer spiritual lessons? I don’t know if all smart phones do the same things, but here is what mine has taught me.

When I am attending a concert or a lecture or Sunday morning worship, one way I can turn off my phone so it doesn’t disrupt me or others is to put it on “do not disturb.” It is very effective. No messages get through until I turn that off. The trouble is that I forget to turn the do-not-disturb off. There may be messages or calls that I needed to receive that I miss. I wonder how often I have my internal do-not-disturb button on, and I miss God’s call. I am so busy with other things that I will not be listening if there is a word to be heard.

I check my phone over and over again during the day. I look to see if I have received a text or an email or perhaps a phone call that I might have missed. I want to be in communication with my friends and the outside world. I look to my phone for companionship or community and to tell me if I matter. My focus is outward instead of looking within, but people fail me and my cell phone in the midst of my addictive attachment to it fails to work.  It is in listening inwardly, attending to God the Inward Teacher where Love and Truth lie. The apostle Paul encourages us to pray unceasingly. Sometimes I’ve wondered what that means. If I tried praying as often and as intently as I check my phone, that might come close.  My life would have a quiet center, not a collection of ring tones.

Queries:

What helps you listen for the Spirit, and what distracts you from paying attention? When you are attuned to the Holy does that make a difference in your life?

What lets you know that you are loved and valued? What do you love and value?

Prayer:

“You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” (Psalm 59:9-10).

For further reflection:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. . . .” (See Mark 12: 29-31).

See the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, Matthew 25: 1-13.