Things you won’t believe
Published 6:06 pm Sunday, February 27, 2022
By Charles Qualls
I want to ask you a question. When I do, I don’t want your answer to come from a place of “ought-to.” I don’t want the voice of your fifth grade Sunday School teacher to answer for you. I don’t want your philosophic substitutions for real beliefs or struggles to speak up. Just me and you, and the honesty of your inner-dialogue that will survive this without having to utter a word aloud.
Here goes the question. What might be the single toughest thing you can recall Jesus saying that you still can’t quite get comfortable with? We’ve been in a challenging Bible study series in our church for six weeks called “The Difficult Words of Jesus.” We’ll finish that up this week.
These are actual things that Jesus said. Most of us, if not all, have been taught to revere sacred scripture, as we should have been. But these are tough things to understand. Today’s scripture in Luke 6: 27-38 wasn’t one of the six session topics in our Bible study series. It sure could have been, though.
This one is tough. Because not everyone is likable, much less lovable. Yet, here Jesus clearly tells us to love our enemies. It just doesn’t come natural to me. I bet to most of you, this is a struggle too. Right? Except that somehow, we pastors aren’t supposed to admit to such a struggle. You’d rather we not even have a struggle with liking everyone.
So, to hear me embrace this scripture with seriousness and sincerity will be off-putting to someone probably. I have never been the best at keeping my powder dry. Oh, I do a decent job of staying alive in my profession. But, there are others far more artful at appearing to just go along with the flow.
I tend to tell someone if they’ve disappointed me. I tend to tell someone if I see things differently. I try to do so as diplomatically as I can, but I learned a long time ago that a “no” from a pastor or an “I don’t see it that way,” is a step too far for some people. So, to hear me say that Jesus said something difficult, something that makes me struggle? Well, I recognize that for some of you that will cause you to struggle.
This is a tough one. Because with all the great people out there, there are also people that it’s hard to become friends with. It’s true where I work. It’s true where you work. This is true anywhere you live, really.
Someone doesn’t like you for a legitimate reason. You got crossways on some task or issue, and things happened. Things were said. It’ll be hard to heal, if you ever do fix things. Some victory you won cost someone else a loss. They won’t get over it. You may be able to win them over one day. You may not.
Someone, as my Mother loves to say, “Will decide they don’t like you the moment you walk-in the door, if for no other reason than the way your nose sits on your face.” Sounds silly, but it happens all the time. More deeply, something about you triggers something in them that they’re not even aware of, and it’s on.
Jesus wasn’t putting up for debate that there would be, or should be, enemies. He was assuming them. Jesus was assuming that we wouldn’t get along with everyone. Yet on the road to getting value out of this scripture, some Christians would rather get derailed trying to fix the unfixable. They simply can’t pass by the notion that in an ideal world, there won’t be any enemies. I’d like that world. It’s just not the one you or I live in. Neither did Jesus.
We have another obstacle here. We know that despite this teaching, despite Jesus being completely serious about this difficult saying– his enemies ultimately killed him on a Cross. Yet, still we are called to love. Because “love” doesn’t always entail “liking.” Love is what we do, so much more than what we feel.
I don’t know about you. I’ve found people I tried and failed to like. But I don’t think I’ve come across anyone that, when the need arose, I couldn’t love. Make no mistake about it: Jesus says some things to us that we just won’t believe. There is a reason for them, though. These are the things that shape the kingdom that God is still bringing about.
DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. He can be reached at 757-562-5135.