Sometimes we squirm over what Jesus wants by Rt. Rev. Michael P. Milliken
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"This morning as I did my prayers, one of the Scripture selections was from St. Luke's gospel. In this passage Jesus is reminding his followers that they are to "Love your enemies …" Sometimes Jesus really makes me squirm! I squirm because I think Jesus is also saying to us that we are to love those different from us – who are a different color, who speak a different language, who are handicapped, who are elderly, who are poor (or rich), who are gay or straight, beautiful or ugly.
"And then Jesus turns the screws a little more. It is not enough to love our enemies; now Jesus expects us to forgive those who wrong us! Forgive? Most of us really want to get even. We want revenge … retribution. We want those who caused us to suffer to suffer even more! Forgive? No way! We want our pound of flesh! I wonder if things might have been different in Ferguson and Baltimore if both sides had worked at forgiveness and understanding."
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Do some of Jesus' teachings make YOU squirm?
There's a good reason for that, you know...
If it was easy to love our enemies, easy to love those who grate on our nerves, easy to love those who don't love us back ... well, we'd have a nice slice of the Kingdom right here on earth. If it was easy to cultivate serenity no matter what, easy to refuse to hold a grudge, easy to truly love all of God's children, and live without fear ... there would be peace on earth in short order.
As it is, many of us who say we love Jesus draw the line at some of his more difficult advice - like these instructions, some found in the article above, and the rest in the revelation of Jesus' life and teachings in The Urantia Book:
"I say to you: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who despitefully use you. And whatsoever you believe that I would do to men, do you also to them.
"Your inability or unwillingness to forgive your fellows is the measure of your immaturity, your failure to attain adult sympathy, understanding, and love. You hold grudges and nurse vengefulness in direct proportion to your ignorance of the inner nature and true longings of your children and your fellow beings. Love is the outworking of the divine and inner urge of life. It is founded on understanding, nurtured by unselfish service, and perfected in wisdom."
"The measure of your human strength of character is your ability to resist the holding of grudges and your capacity to withstand brooding in the face of deep sorrow. Defeat is the true mirror in which you may honestly view your real self."
"... why should you live in fear of the many trifles which come up in your daily lives? I say to you: Fear not."
And when he said, "Resist not evil," he later explained that he did not mean to condone sin or to counsel fraternity with iniquity. He intended the more to teach forgiveness, to "resist not evil treatment of one's personality, evil injury to one's feelings of personal dignity."
And from elsewhere in The Urantia Book:
103:5.2 This idea-ideal of doing good to others—the impulse to deny the ego something for the benefit of one's neighbor—is very circumscribed at first. Primitive man regards as neighbor only those very close to him, those who treat him neighborly; as religious civilization advances, one's neighbor expands in concept to embrace the clan, the tribe, the nation. And then Jesus enlarged the neighbor scope to embrace the whole of humanity, even that we should love our enemies. And there is something inside of every normal human being that tells him this teaching is moral—right. Even those who practice this ideal least, admit that it is right in theory.
Here's some insight on why many of us, while on board with Jesus intellectally, are unable or unwilling to really live what we know is right:
195:9.6 "Thinking man has always feared to be held by a religion. When a strong and moving religion threatens to dominate him, he invariably tries to rationalize, traditionalize, and institutionalize it, thereby hoping to gain control of it. By such procedure, even a revealed religion becomes man-made and man-dominated. Modern men and women of intelligence evade the religion of Jesus because of their fears of what it will do to them—and with them. And all such fears are well founded. The religion of Jesus does, indeed, dominate and transform its believers, demanding that men dedicate their lives to seeking for a knowledge of the will of the Father in heaven and requiring that the energies of living be consecrated to the unselfish service of the brotherhood of man.
"Selfish men and women simply will not pay such a price for even the greatest spiritual treasure ever offered mortal man. Only when man has become sufficiently disillusioned by the sorrowful disappointments attendant upon the foolish and deceptive pursuits of selfishness, and subsequent to the discovery of the barrenness of formalized religion, will he be disposed to turn wholeheartedly to the gospel of the kingdom, the religion of Jesus of Nazareth."
Are we really selfish? Is it going to take even more sad events on ths world to convince the followers of Jesus that the solution begins with US? We may bemoan the state of the world and the state of the churches, but what are we doing - individually - to change things?
It's good food for thought, isn't it? Again, from the article cited above:
"As humans, we have free will. We can chose. As Christians, I hope we would chose the Way of Christ. It is so easy to hate. It is so easy to hold grudges. It is so easy to nurse our hurt feelings and bruised egos. But the Risen Lord expects more of his followers. It is hard to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable. But that is what is expected of us."