Sermon On The Mountain: Love For Enemies!

Filed under: Letters |


The story is told of a holy man who used to meditate every morning under a large tree on the banks of the river Ganges in northern India. The place he chose was near a site of pilgrimage where Hindus came to wash in the scared river and cleanse themselves from sin. One morning, after he had finished his meditation, the old man noticed a large scorpion floating helplessly on the strong current of the river.

The scorpion became caught in the tree’s long roots that extended into the river bed. The more it struggled to free itself, the more entangled it became in the twining roots. The old man reached out to free the captive animal and, as soon as he touched it, the scorpion lifted its tail and stung him wildly. But the old man reached out again to free it. A young man was passing and saw what was happening. He shouted out: “Old man, what’s wrong with you? You must be mad! Why border risking your life to save such and ugly useless creature?”

The old man turned to the onlooker, and in his pain there was a question: “Friend,” he said, “because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, why should I give up my own nature to save?”

The story of the old man and the scorpion raises a problem that we all faces: do we take our cue for action from the treatment we receive from others, or do we continue in the way of graciousness even when we get stung ourselves?

Jesus argues that the love his disciples give people is not related to the love they receive from others: it is not a social contract or a fair bargain. The disciple loves because that is what the nature of discipleship involves. A disciple is the son of the Father -and look at the Father’s graciousness. He does not withhold the sun and the rain from those who oppose him; likewise, the disciples must not withhold his love from those who oppose him.

The love is offered not because Jesus thinks that it will change the enemy into something else: certainly, love might confuse him! Love is offered because that is what a disciple of the kingdom should do. His script proceeds from who he is, not from what he receives from others.

Jesus does not believe that love transforms enemies into instant friends. Love didn’t solve all Jesus’ problems with his enemies. In the end he was the one who reached out to free others and was stung in the process. He was stung to death. But he stayed with his supreme value because that emerged from who he was as the son of the Father. Love is his way and it stays his way no matter what appears on the agenda. Even the scorpion.