oteria Shepperson, poet, artist, friend at the Hillsborough Hate Free rally, August 2019 – Hillsborough NC (iamsoteria.com)

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” ~Matthew 5:43-48 (The Message)

I guess that I am not yet grown up.

Several weeks ago a handful of KKK members gathered in the town
of Hillsborough. On Saturday, August 31, another gathering took place
– this time 900-1000 residents and non-residents of Hillsborough came out to the “Hate-Free Hillsborough” march and response.  Many UCCH members were there in solidarity of building a hate-free community. Similar events have been taking place in areas such as Burlington and Pittsboro as well.

While we come together in solidarity, it’s hard knowing that we live in very divisive times. There are certain people and/or groups that I’m are not ready to embrace with love – members of white supremacy groups, right wing extremists, KKK members, as well as anyone who thinks it okay to put children in cages on our borders. I cringe internally every day when I drive to work and pass by a particular house flying a confederate flag on a county road.

We live in very divided communities throughout the nation. When I turn on the news, I see angry people from all sides of the political spectrum challenging and yelling at each other. It is very difficult to navigate through our current culture of quagmire.

The gospel of love, as preached by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, is not for a happy-go-lucky person. It calls for us to love and pray fully for everyone, “the good, the bad, the nice and nasty.” When we embrace those who have hurt us, wronged us, dismissed us, we are living the gospel of love. When we can pray for those who are disruptive, as well as those whose practices and beliefs are dangerous and harmful, then we are living the gospel of love. This love we are called to embrace is not easy. It’s actually demanding, and wants for us to be so much more than we are. It requires us to see the enemy as “children of God” just as much as we see our friends that way. Jesus’ “grown up love” means stepping outside our comfort zone, our safe communities, and loving all, not just some.

This month, along with counting my blessings, and giving God gratitude for all I’m thankful for, I plan to engage in a daily practice of sending a prayer of love to my “enemies.” Maybe this will be a small step toward “growing up.” Anyone wish to join me?  May God bless this devotional.

Prayer: Dear God, you call us to be more. You ask us to embrace the ones who are our enemy, along with the ones we love and are in our heart. You call us to “grow up” and live a gospel that is demanding. May we find courage and strength to do so. In Jesus’ name Amen.

Reflection Questions:

How can we show love and embrace those who’ve hurt us, and maintain the boundaries we need to protect ourselves?

Has there been any time in your life when loving someone took a lot of courage?

What steps can we make to combat the divisiveness in our communities and nation?

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