Praying for Our Enemies? Really? The Rev. C. Dean Taylor It’s one of my all-time favorite comedy sketches, by British Comedian Rowan Atkinson, known to most Americans as Mr. Bean. In this sketch, he comes onto the stage wearing a red dinner jacket, with devil horns on his head. There’s flickering red lighting in the background to indicate fire, and there’s smoke all around. And he comes out, smiles, and says, “Good Evening, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Satan, or Lucifer if you like. Or you can call me Toby.” He has a clip board in his hand, and it soon becomes clear that he is welcoming this newest batch of souls to Hell. And he says, “Now, let’s begin by sorting ourselves out. First, let’s see, the murderers, yes, the murderers please move over here. Thank you, and the Adulterers, over there—my gosh there are a lot of you. And now, let’s see, looking at his clip board, “Oh yes, the LAWYERS, yes, the Lawyers, please move over here. Thank you. And oh yes, The FRENCH. Are the French here. Yes, you go over there with the Germans. I’m sure you’ll have lots to talk about. And on and on it goes to the point of absurdity, which is of course the point. 2. I think this is such a favorite of mine first, because it shows the overall absurdity of that Medieval Doctrine of Hell that has been so damaging in the spiritual lives of so many. (We’ll deal with that later in the season of Lent) But also because it shows our human tendency to want to be the ones who DECIDE who gets punished. In other words, our desire to throw our enemies into a Hell of some sort. In our Gospel lesson this morning,--Let me just tell you what happened, all over the country, earlier this week, as preachers opened their lectionary books to see what Gospel was assigned to preach about this Sunday. They looked over this passage and read, “, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Uh huh,…..Let’s see what’s in the Old Testament that I can preach on. Or even better, isn’t it time for us to have a guest preacher? Of ALL the THINGS that Jesus ever said, I think that THIS is one of the HARDEST to hear. As Ryan Ahlorim puts it, “It is the most RADICAL, RIDICULOUS, and IMPORTANT thing Jesus ever said. Because it goes to the heart of one of our most basic instincts as human beings. And that is to HIT BACK. Retribution, Revenge, Pay Back, as we would say today. It’s a deep, primal instinct that comes right out of our “Caveman” past as an instinct of survival. “Fight or Flight” instinct, this being a primal impulse to “fight.” 3. It's with us still, as modern-day Sapiens, though the hurts that are given to us by “enemies” are not saber-tooth tigers or bears as much as they are our fellow human beings. And, the hurts that are Verbal can be as painful and deep as a physical wound. So that, when a wrong is done to us, that “fight” instinct turns into the urge for RETRIBUTION. It becomes our belief that PAYING BACK that person the wrong done to us SOMEHOW LEVELS THINGS OUT. Somehow balances out the evil that was done to us. And somehow makes us feel better, helps us heal. In terms of violence, theologians call this the “Myth of Redemptive Violence”—When we do back to them what they did to us, that that Retribution somehow REDEEMS, or balances out, that original wrong that was done to us. There are just SO MANY ways people can hurt us, and those hurts can so often go VERY, VERY DEEP, and last SO LONG. Our first reaction to those hurts is to immediately “fantasize” about scenarios in which we “get them back” and hurt them in the same way—or even worse—than they hurt us. The myth of “redemptive violence,” or perhaps more broader, “redemptive vengeance” is as much alive in our culture as it was in Jesus’. In our movies, the bad guys do something terrible to the hero; the hero makes the vow to “avenge” that death or that hurt. By the end of the movie, the bad guys are either dead or punished, and all is right with the world. Scan the action movies on Netflix or HBO. There is actually a CATEGORY in the Netflix line-up, an ACTUAL CATEGORY called “Action Movies About Revenge” and there are close to fifty selections: Acts of Vengeance Reprisal Avengement How it ends Triple Threat Riot Hang ‘em High Dead Man Down Message from the King Blood and Bone Head Shot Sucker Punch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen I am Vengeance—retaliation (There’s even one for the children: Kung Fu Panda!) Our world be

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