“Love your enemies.”
I have not heard a lot of sermons on loving your enemies. It seems people often use religion to back up their prejudices and fears. They prefer a religion that makes them right and everyone else wrong. They make God into their own image, rather than remaking themselves in the image of God. My religion is right and everyone else is going to hell! How convenient?
Beloved… “God is love.”
1 John 4:8
I believe love is the highest principle in the universe. But it will be tested in a world filled with so much hate. If it cannot show up, persevere, and triumph, than it is not really true love. People will say love failed me, but usually it is you who failed love. It is easy to love the lovable, and to hate the hater’s! But to love your enemies? This is where we all get weak in the knees and look for the exit. So we chase shadows instead of shining a light.
To love your enemies does not mean loving the works of darkness or getting warm and fuzzy over those who commit them. It is simply the willingness, commitment, and courage to reserve your heart as a vessel to emanate love and not use circumstance or individual personalities as an excuse to turn it off. It is like the sun that shines on the wicked and the just. It is the willingness to be surprised by what the vibration of love can actually do. You see unearned love can be redemptive.
This all became clear to me in an incident that occurred many years ago. I was “called” to work with homeless youth on the streets of Tucson. My wife and I would make burritos in our home, and I would throw them in a back pack, and hand them out to whoever was hungry on the streets. Then we would have a little service under a tree in the park. I became known as “The Burrito Preacher” by the street kids. One day I was praying with a drug addicted youth. Both of us were kneeling with our eyes closed, when my face was splattered with blood. When I opened my eyes I realized that someone had bashed this young seeker in the head with a stone. After dealing with the paramedics and police and seeing this kid whisked away in the back of an ambulance, I found out that this “hit” was directed by the neighborhood drug dealer. I put two and two together and realized that getting these street kids off of drugs was bad for his business.
I became more aware of his presence. When he entered the park it was as if a giant black shadow had blocked out the sun. Fear echoed across the hearts of these runaways because he was known to beat down anyone who opposed him. In my human self I was tempted to hate him or to be rude and cold. But because I was on a mission in the name of love, I was warm, respectful and kind in my dealings with him. I have to be honest, this was only a strategy on my part. I thought if I’m going to help these other kids I have to work around this “son of darkness” who is beyond help. The love I showed him by refusing to be hateful, was more a sacrifice of love for the people I wanted to help. I wasn’t really feeling the love for him or his horrible actions. Then something amazing and unexpected happened!
One morning I was walking the streets handing out burritos and I decided to take a short cut through an alley. This is when I saw a foreboding shadow moving towards me on a street bike. And sure enough it was the young dark lord of “street dealing,” himself. It was moments like this that I was glad to be well trained in the ancient art of Kung Fu! I braced myself for what might happen next? He rode full speed up to where I was, stopped about three feet away and dropped the bike and walked up to me face to face. We both stood there in an old west style stand off, then he fell to his knees and began bathing my feet with his tears.
He cried out, “I DON’T WANT TO BE BAD ANYMORE!” I found out that he had grown up watching his alcoholic mother be beaten and abused by his alcoholic step-father. One day he couldn’t take it anymore and he fought with his step-father to protect his mom. They called the police and his mother sided with her abuser over her son and told the police it was all his fault. She lied and said that he had attacked her husband unprovoked. This injustice was just the beginning of the unfolding horror of what he faced in prison and on the streets. He became angry, hardened, and downright mean. As I prayed with him I saw a softness return to his eyes. I realized that the innocent boy he had once been, was not dead. From deeper in his heart he had been watching me, and had been reawakened by my kindness and respect.
After this incident it seemed he had disappeared. 3 months later I was walking down 4th Ave, when I heard someone shout “Hey Burrito preacher!” I turned around and my new found friend came rushing towards me with light beaming from his eyes and he gave me a huge bear hug. He told me how our encounter in the alley had changed his life. He had stopped dealing drugs and had spent the last three months in New Orleans building new houses for those left homeless after hurricane Katrina. I was amazed by his total transformation. I had witnessed the power of love in action.
It was hard for me to believe Lao Tzu’s claim “that the softest thing could be the most powerful thing” until through Kung Fu, I experienced this universal force flowing through my body! It was hard for me to believe in the power of love until I experienced it flowing in my own heart. I could not believe that shining a light could bring transformation and change until I saw it with my own eyes!
“Overcome darkness with light.
Overcome evil by doing good.
Overcome hatred with love
Love is the most powerful force in the Universe!”