Sound Words – January 7, 2018

Sound Words – January 7, 2018

Who is My Enemy?
By Stephen Auman

A lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, and asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In the ensuing dialog, they quickly agreed that one of the requirements was to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. But the lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told the parable of the Good Samaritan, which demonstrated that everyone should be considered one’s neighbor.
Unfortunately, when Jesus told us to love our enemies, no such defining parable was given. I think that most of us would really like a situation much like the one the Good Samaritan encountered. Imagine happening upon an enemy who is wounded and helpless–maybe a Nazi soldier or a Communist spy–and magnanimously rescuing him. Or perhaps someone tries to kill you for no reason, and after subduing him in some heroic way you spare his life. And then he sees the error of his ways and resolves to become good. Applause from the crowd.
I think that all of us have something like this going on, deep in the depths of our minds, when someone mentions loving our enemies.
Because for one thing, why would somebody be my enemy unless he’s some sort of villain? I’m a nice person. I don’t make people my enemies. I’m supposed to love my neighbor, right? And everybody is my neighbor, right?
I mean, except for that obnoxious woman at the store who was letting her kid make a mess of the aisle. And that aggressive driver who almost ran into me. They were pretty villain-like, right? And they certainly weren’t very neighborly. And I only saw them each for a few seconds. How is that a neighbor? Besides, they weren’t even sorry.
So, does that make them enemies? And if so, does that mean I have to love them?
But why should I love them if they’ll never even know it? That isn’t fair. I want some kind of credit. It’s no fun loving your neighbor if they don’t appreciate it or feel bad or something. Or shouldn’t I at least get points of some kind? And how many points is a momentary annoyance worth, anyway? There are a lot of uncertainties here. Maybe I shouldn’t take the trouble to love someone unless I’m really sure he’s my enemy.
But maybe anyone I become angry with or want to hate should count as my enemy.
And maybe I can’t wait for him to come to me and apologize before I try to love him.
Even if he never even notices the love happened. Or even if he does notice, and he makes fun of me for it.
When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” was it because they had apologized? No. And even after He had said those words, His enemies continued to mock and revile Him.
For over two thousand years.
And He continues to love His enemies–even us. Because all of us, in our sinful ways, have made ourselves His enemies, at least for a time.
And having such an example from Him, how can we not love our enemies?
But what if I, wishing to justify myself, ask, “And who is my enemy?”
I think it’s anyone who doesn’t love me.
Or anyone I don’t love.
Or anyone whom I don’t think of as a neighbor.
And if we have to love our neighbors, and we have to love our enemies, I don’t really think there’s going to be anyone left.

Praying to God

Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents. At bedtime, the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers when the youngest one began praying at the top of his lungs. “I PRAY FOR A NEW BICYCLE… I PRAY FOR A NEW PLAYSTATION… I PRAY FOR A NEW SMARTPHONE…” His older brother leaned over and nudged the younger brother and said, “Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn’t deaf.” To which the little brother replied, “No, but Grandma is!”
There is the temptation to pray to people rather than to God. We’ve all heard public prayers, I’m sure, that were worded in such a way so as to “preach” to the congregation rather than to approach the throne of God. That’s why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matt. 6:5-6).
Jesus was not forbidding (as some have suggested) public prayer. Jesus offered many public prayers Himself. However, He was warning us about the tendency to pray our prayers for the express purpose of being heard by other people. (Alan Smith)

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