I've got good news and bad news this morning. The good news is that God is a God of grace. That means that God, out of God's great love, accepts us regardless. That is not an easy truth to come to, especially the regardless part. But when we understand that God accepts us, regardless, it is good news. That is what the word "gospel" means: good news. And believing the good news that God's great love accepts you regardless is the beginning of salvation.
But I've also got bad news this morning. The bad news is that God is a God of grace. Jonah heard it as bad news. You know the story of Jonah, how God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrians, a hated, cruel enemy of the Israelites, and preach God's regardless love. Jonah said to God, "I would rather die than have to tell the people that you love them."
Jonah got it right. Jonah understood better than we do. Jonah saw that God's grace is both good news and bad news. It's the regardless part that makes it so offensive. And if we are honest with ourselves this morning, we will admit that we believe that there are some people that don't deserve God's love; there are some people that we don't want God to love.
Regardless is too inclusive for us. That's what Jonah thought. There ought to be some people out of the scope of God's love. But God loves regardless. It would be easier to live with the bad news of God's regardless love if it didn't involve us. God can love anyone God chooses to love. But it does involve us. Jesus described our involvement in God's regardless love in this way, "Love your enemies."
In order to understand what this text says, you must first hear it as bad news. It is not the person who slighted you, or the one with whom you have a misunderstanding, or the one who always gets chosen ahead of you that we are called to love. Jesus said, "Love your enemies." It is the one who has hurt you and maybe is still hurting you. Until you have that person in mind, you have not understood this text.
It is the husband who had an affair while the wife was nursing their newborn. Jesus is saying to that wife, "Love him." It is the co-worker who spread untrue rumors that led to an unfair dismissal. Jesus says to the one dismissed, "Love your co-worker." It is the investor who defrauded the elderly couple out of their retirement savings. Jesus says to the elderly couple, "Love the investor." It is the neighbor who molested his neighbor's child. Jesus says to the parents of the child, "Love the neighbor." It is the friend who revealed confidences and ruined a reputation. Jesus says, "Love that friend."
My eighteen year-old brother was killed in a motorcycle accident by a drunken college student. A minister brought the young man to our home shortly after the accident and asked my parents to forgive him. Afterwards, my mother said about the young man, "He never even said, 'I'm sorry.'" We were not ready to love our enemy.