We are Called to Love…Amidst Animosity and Adversity
“Doing or saying the right thing is easy. It will make you popular. People will love you for it. In fact, having firm conviction is the key to having a peaceful, easy existence without any real conflict.” Said literally no one, ever. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, our prophets have been starved, beaten, fed to animals, burned, and tortured. Incidentally, in many cases, it was the “religious folks” that did the beating, torturing and killing. Jesus was handed over by religious authorities to be crucified by the Roman Government.
Sometimes, people think that the greatest good for the Christian is to “get along”. I like to call this the “the gospel of nice.” The thing is that Jesus didn’t preach the gospel of nice. He preached something better. He preached the radical, risky, vulnerable, self-sacrificing love of God that rises above the conflicts of this world and calls us to love in the midst of animosity and adversity. The same Jesus who tells us that he did not come to bring peace, but to cause division.” (Luke 12:51) also tells us: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
However, Jesus does bring us peace, but a peace that the world cannot bring (John 14:27). At first, it seems that these statements of Jesus contradict each other, but further reflection resolves the apparent contradiction. A point which was agreed upon by some of the greatest thinkers of the last century including the eclectic trio of Gandhi, Ronald Regan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. is that peace is not the mere absence of conflict, but rather, as Dr. King stated peace is “the presence of justice.” As St. Thomas Aquinas stated “Wherever peace is, there is concord, but there is not peace, wherever there is concord.” True peace is the fruit of loving God. To love God means that we yield our will to his, forsaking our own desires, and yielding to the desire of God who is the ultimate Good.
When our will is united with God’s will, there will be peace, a peace the world cannot bring. Yet, as we yield to God’s will, this conflicts with our own selfish desires. Therefore, we are all living proof that the peace that the Lord brings is always in conflict with the world which places selfish desires as the ultimate goal. Whenever Christians proclaim that there is a Good that is greater than the immediate pleasure the world seeks to bring us, there will be conflict. And we will remain firmly rooted amid this conflict in the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:7) Preaching the truth, will always yield conflict with the world, but ultimately peace in our hearts.