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Árni Svanur Danielsson

A hate/love relationship?

29. september 2013

In the gospel reading of the day we are introduced to the story of Lazarus and the rich man. They are presented as opposites.

What happens when we read this this passage alongside Jesus’ words in the sermon on the Mount about loving our enemies?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

We know of a few passages in the gospels where Jesus uses this kind of wording to get his message across. You have heard. But I tell you.

Most of the time we recognize the phrases and sentences Jesus is giving a new interpretation of. Often these are laws from the Old Testament. So, where do we find this phrase: Hate your enemy?

Well, it’s not in the Bible.

Perhaps the answer is that this was common wisdom in the time of Jesus. Perhaps it’s a rephrasing of something like: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth in the sense that your enemy is the one who hates you. Perhaps it comes from the definition of an enemy as someone you dislike so much that you could use the word hate about him or her.

Perhaps the answer is none of the above. Perhaps the answer is that the law that we should hate our enemies isn’t written in a book. It’s written on our hearts. It’s written within us to dislike and distrust those we define as enemies. If that is the case then this passage might give us an important insight into the work of Jesus as that of rewriting laws of society and of the laws written on our hearts so that they become infused with love.

Love your neighbor.
Love your enemy.

It’s easy to love those we hold dear. At least most of the time. It’s easy to love our neighbor. But it’s difficult to love our enemy. It goes against our instincts. It goes against our defense mechanisms.

But Jesus doesn’t listen to any complaints about difficulty. He just asks, invites, us to love. To love those those who are different, love to those who don’t belong, to love as he loved.

Perhaps one lesson we learn when we read the story about Abraham, Lazarus and the rich man alongside the Sermon on the Mount is this: Seize each and every opportunity you have to love and serve while you are alive. Don’t postpone it. Seize every opportunity to bring down barriers between people, between rich and poor - between the us and the them.

I think that this is a beautiful and worthwhile way of approaching our life together. And I think that this becomes visible in our community here in the church as we come together in the greeting of peace where we are one, without any visible borders, and as we walk together towards the altar to receive the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament, where we are one.


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