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Love and righteousness and mercy

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you….  “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them…. But love your enemies, and .... you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6: 27-36
 

Love? At many Jersey weddings this summer, love has (rightly) been raised on high. “I shall love you forever.”

So often, however, a breakdown of love occurs in a marriage, in a partnership. A breakdown of love? Why a breakdown? Surely love is love? Surely love endures through trials and difficulties of all kinds? And what about the words of Jesus Christ in bold above? Love your enemies.... Surely that lasts?

Intriguingly – in today’s free-wheeling society – love often breaks down when one of the two parties wants to revert to being unaccountable – as free as before the commitment was entered into. Conjugal love does not often survive unfaithfulness (unrighteousness), does it?

Is that different from the love which Jesus asked his followers to have? Love your enemies.... Did Jesus intend this love to permit unrighteousness and sin? In the marriage arena, should love for another say “it doesn’t matter” when that other is unrighteous (unfaithful)?

 
 
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‘He who demands mercy but shows none ruins the bridge over which he himself is to pass.’ (Thomas Adams, preacher, 1583-1653)

In a totally good world (which is not the case at present), a married couple might well expect (from and towards each other) total righteousness. One might expect one’s partner never to cheat, never to lie, never to defraud, never to be self-seeking, always to do good, always to be faithful.

In those circumstances “love” would be easy. The more difficult issue is about “love” when one’s partner is unrighteous – unjust, unfaithful, sinful.

Please read again the words in bold above. Jesus spoke them to the crowds in Galilee around AD 30. Perhaps we’re missing something in these wonderful words of Jesus?

In particular, did you notice these unusual words of Jesus, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”

What kind of love is demonstrated by those who only love those who love them? Is it not a self-seeking love? And what kind of love is demonstrated by those who are sinners (doers of myriad different kinds of evil) when they love other sinners? Is that also a self-seeking love?

Is this what is happening when you see (in Jersey) a wrong-doer doing good to another wrong-doer (giving them a “free” lunch) for the purposes of completing a business deal? Rarely will you find two businessmen, about to enter into a contract, discussing a moral issue, affecting the other contracting party, which might upset the deal. No, it’s true, even sinners love those who love them.

Can this be applied to married partners? It’s possible that both married partners might love one another, as it were, as sinners.  They might agree each to have their so-called “freedom” and to love one another on that basis...

This kind of love – the love that loves because it suits “me” – seems far inferior to the love which Jesus had in mind when he said so clearly (twice – see above), love your enemies, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 
 
 
 
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‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.’ (King David of Israel, alive 980 BC)

When Jesus spoke these words to his followers he was not – in any way – instructing them to say to evildoers, “it doesn’t matter” or “carry on, if it’s good for you then it’s good.”

No, he was asking them to love, not by condoning evil and sin - but despite both. He wanted them to love even those who hated them, cursed them and abused them. He wanted them to demonstrate daily the love which would show even to sinners a strong and practical desire for their ultimate good, true good, and not for their harm.

True love does not paper over unrighteousness but, seeing it and even exposing it, triumphs over it – even over unfaithfulness.” “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
 
 
Richard Syvret

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