Week of Proper 18: Thursday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Archbishop Desmond Tutu Breaking Down at a Hearing of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, April 1996

Image Source = Sunday Times

Love and Forgiveness, Whether Mutual or Not



Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Colossians 3:12-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.  The Lord has forgiven you; now must do the same.  Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love.  And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body.  Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its riches, find a home with you.  Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom.  With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Psalm 150 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

2 Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

3 Praise him with the blast of the ram’s-horn;

Praise him with lyre and harp.

4 Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

5 Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.


Luke 6:27-38 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But I say this to you who are listening:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you:  a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.


The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The excerpts from Luke and Colossians fit together well.  Both teach the Golden Rule.  This is an oft-quoted maxim.  Many people confess it with their lips then do not try to honor it with their lives.  And many of us who praise the Golden Rule with our words and try to live it discover quickly how difficult the follow-through can be.  We need to confess our failure to God, who is ready to forgive us.  Then we need to forgive ourselves for our weaknesses and others for theirs.  Together, ever striving to do better and trusting in God, we need to support each other in our struggles to do to others as we want them to treat us.

Sometimes this love and this compassion are mutual.  This was the vision of Jesus and Paul.  But human nature being what it is, such love and compassion are frequently one-sided.  When this is true, the person who does more than law and convention require does so as a free man or woman.  When there is dishonor, it belongs not to the inconvenienced and and wronged party, but to the one who inconveniences and wrongs.  Doing the right thing for the right reason places one on the moral high ground.

Consider examples of nonviolent action.  In my nation, the United States, in the 1960s, many civil rights activists engaged in sit-ins at segregated establishments.  They faced verbal and physical abuse, but did not resist.  In so doing, they denied their attackers any semblance of an excuse or justification.  What kind of person beats up a man or woman who refuses to fight back?  And what must the assaulter think about him or herself, assuming he or she has a conscience?  Furthermore, Mohandas K. Gandhi employed nonviolent tactics and buckets full of shame to liberate India from the British Empire.  He was a moral giant.

And what about forgiveness?  The Apartheid regime of South Africa perpetrated atrocities against dissidents.  But the Mandela Administration began a process of reconciliation, dependent on the telling of truth, of course.  It was a difficult process, but it helped to begin the healing process.  Jesus would approve, based on passages such as those from Luke for this day.

A fight grows larger, longer, and worse when more parties consent to it.  But what happens when someone opts out?  This principle informs my self-discipline.  Thus I prefer to avoid many arguments, especially when the other person is shouting at me.  I refuse to shout back or to react physically.  This prevents the situation from becoming worse.  Besides, two people yelling at each other is worse than one person shouting at the one who is silent.  Self-discipline is the wisest choice in such an occasion.   Often it angers the other person, but that is not my intention; it is merely an unintended consequence over which I have no control.  I am responsible for control of my own emotions, not those of another person.

This post marks my departure from Colossians for now.  The lectionary moves along to 1 Timothy, a very good book, too.  So a summary of the highlights of Colossians 3:18-4:18 follows:

  • 3:18-4:1 is a frequently proof-texted passage.  Wives and husbands, parents, and children, slaves and masters have obligations to each other.  Reading one verse, say 3:18 but not 3:19 distorts the meaning 3:18.  In 3:18-4:1 Paul does not recognizes anyone’s right to lord it over anyone.  Mutual respect is the overarching principle here.
  • Paul recognized the existence of slavery but did not challenge it.  He thought that he was living in the End Times, so social reform took a backseat to personal holiness in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus.  But the Golden Rule requires some social reform, does it not?  I side with Jesus, not Paul, in this regard.
  • Those who believe differently than I do are not my enemies because they disagree with me.  But what Paul writes about how to deal with them is consistent with our Lord’s command to love one’s enemies.  Consider Colossians 3:5-6:  “Be tactful with those who are not Christians and be sure you make the best of your time with them.  Talk to them agreeably and with a flavour of wit, and try to fit your answers to the needs of each one.”

Love, whether mutual or one-sided, is always better than hatred.  Antipathy enslaves us in resentment, but love liberates us to live compassionately.  What others think is of little consequence relative to what God commands.  God is love, and Jesus is the greatest indication of this truth.  So may we walk in love, with God’s help.



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