Christ and Your Enemy

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:43-48)

In the United States today we honor the memory of  the courageous human rights advocate Martin Luther King whose own work was derived from his Christian faith.  He says:

There may come a time when it will be possible for you to humiliate your worst enemy or even to defeat him, but in order to love the enemy you must not do it… The Greek language has another word [for love]. It calls it agape. Agape is more than romantic love. Agape is more than friendship. Agape is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men. Agape is an overflowing love, a spontaneous love, which seeks nothing in return. And theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. When you rise to love on this level you love all men, not because you like them, not because their ways appeal to you, not because they are worthful to you, but you love all men because God loves them. And you rise to the noble heights of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. And I think this is what Jesus means when he says, ‘Love your enemies.‘” 

Racial equality is a human rights issue.  All Americans who love freedom and independence benefit from the work to have civil rights in America.  It is not just minority rights, but human rights – and we all benefit from this.  We can see in our country’s history, the struggle we have had to be Christian and to accept the declared vision that all humans are created equal.  We realize the significance of the anti-slavery movement in our country to defend Christianity and the Declaration of Independence and human rights as well.  The American Antislavery Society motto:

“If you come to us and are hungry, we will
feed you, if thirsty, we will give you drink, if naked,
we will clothe you; if sick, we will minister to your
necessities, if in prison, we will visit you; if you need a
hiding place from the face of pursuers, we will provide
one that even bloodhounds will not scent out.”

(Catherine Clinton, HARRIET TUBMAN: THE ROAD TO FREEDOM, p 79)

The civil rights movement has its origins in Christianity.  All Christians who attempt to follow the Gospel commandments will see that a struggle against racism and prejudice is a struggle against the passions and for following Christ.

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