I love John Lennon’s song “Imagine” minus the first verse. I just don’t want to imagine “no heaven.” I like heaven. But imagine: no countries, no religion, no possessions – sounds a whole lot like the kingdom of God, doesn’t it?
I don’t think Lennon had any idea or intent to point to a kingdom theology in his song, but he sure does. No international borders, no religious trappings, no possessions that stand in the way of relationships – this is the kingdom of God. This is what Jesus declared, unlocked the door to, and laid down his life to usher in.
And so, when Jesus said love your enemy, I think he meant it. I think he also showed it with incredible implications. The cross is often pointed to as the ultimate act of enemy love – Jesus died for all people. Imagine. People who warred against him. People who insulted him. People who hurt him.
But Jesus also does something incredible the night he is betrayed. A mob is coming to take him to his death. (A mob, in fact, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders – imagine your church leadership sending a mob after someone.) As this happens, they take hold of Jesus and one of his disciples busts out a sword and lops off the ear of the servant of the high priest.
Jesus practices enemy love. He is in the act of being arrested. He knows that his arrest will lead to painful things and end in his death, and yet, here he is stopping a scene from going from bad to worse to more bloodshed. Jesus stops them from further violence. But he doesn’t end his efforts there.
Jesus restores. Despite the fact that the injured man was coming to arrest him and lead him to his inevitable end, Jesus stops the violence and heals this man. This enemy. He doesn’t leave him wounded. He doesn’t simply help this man find a bandage. He restores him.
Imagine if we took a play from Jesus’ book. Imagine if we could lay down our own feelings of betrayal or pride or hurt and seek the same kind of restoration. What would that look like?
I know there is a cynical voice somewhere who says, “But I’m not Jesus.” You’re right. Thank God you aren’t. But we are called to be more like him each day. And what does it look like to be more like Jesus? To lay aside our own feelings of personal injustice, of pride, or of betrayal and love unconditionally?
It looks hard. It looks like work. But it isn’t impossible.
“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will be as one.”
And then live it.
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Natalie Frisk is the Curriculum Development Pastor at The Meeting House Church – a multi-site church in Ontario, Canada, and an ordained minister with the Brethren in Christ denomination in Canada. She is married to Sam and together they have an awesome daughter, Erin Penny.
Read more of Natalie’s writing at nataliefrisk.com and follow her on twitter @NatalieFrisk.