Love Your Enemies 2

(In Fitzroy we are journeying through Lent in the Travel Narratives of Luke (Chapters 9 to 19). We begin that journey on Monday so in these first few days I am going to draw out some thoughts from the first 9 chapters.)

READ LUKE 6: 27-36

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

For me, as a follower of Jesus, these are the most challenging words in the entire Gospels. For me, as a follower of Jesus who lives and ministers in Northern Ireland, they are the most relevant. 

IF we are listening, the section begins. Well if we are, then we will hear that this is not optional. These are not words for discussion. It is not deluxe discipleship. It is for all of us. We need to forgive our enemy. Whoever “the other” is in our world. 

In Northern Ireland we have been slow to love our enemies. Subjectively, it is difficult because we are wounded, with deep damage in our hearts and souls. Objectively, it is difficult because we have played theological gymnastics in our heads to lie to ourselves that we don’t need to forgive until “the other” repents on our terms and becomes like us.

That is not what we hear Jesus say, if we are listening. There are no pre conditions to loving our enemies. Indeed, Jesus stresses that there is no credit if we love those like us. The power of the life and death and resurrection of Christ will be revealed as a transcendent wonder of a thing when we do the opposite of our intuitive response. 

Why? Where’s the substance for such mad following and loving? In the last line, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” As God loves us unconditionally, so we love our enemies. Grace, mercy incarnate. We can preach grace all we like BUT loving our enemies will speak louder and prove the words. 

My friend Rev Dr Spiwo Xapile, who ministers in Guguletu on the Cape Flats of South Africa and knew the horrendous injustices of the apartheid era, once said to my students, “I get up every morning and thank God I am South African, black and a Christian… because every day I get the opportunity to love my enemies.” Wow! Now that is Christlike!

PONDER: This Lent, let us ask how we are following Jesus in forgiving those we are at enmity with. Also let us ask the Holy Spirit to search us deep down and uncover where we are playing gymnastics with God’s Word to avoid this uncomfortable obedience?



Prosititues 2

(In Fitzroy we are journeying through Lent in the Travel Narratives of Luke (Chapters 9 to 19). We begin that journey on Monday so in these first few days I am going to draw out some thoughts from the first 9 chapters.)

READ: LUKE 5: 27- 32

27After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Here is a recurring theme in Luke’s account of Jesus life; Jesus reaching for the outsider and the religious unhappy at the fact.

I had three months living in Belfast city centre. I had no TV nor did I need one. From the window I could see the drug lift there, the prostitute rendezvous there. One morning I almost stepped over the night girls on my way to the Presbyterian Assembly Buildings. I moved quickly, no eyes connecting. And I thought that that was a good Presbyterian boy. 

Then I was quickly drawn back to the Gospels. Jesus would have sat down and chatted with the prostitutes. They would have been drawn to his grace. It was bad discipleship that sent me off to some ivory tower religious office with the inability to reach out to these women that God loves. So many Discipleship Conferences and books and no one spent a chapter on how to hang with the people Jesus hung around with.

Of course had I sat with these ladies and done the Jesus thing I would have been looked on with some suspicion. My reputation might have been a tarnished (or even more tarnished than it is!!!). The tax collectors like Levi were the social pariahs like drug dealers might be considered today. How far we have gone from following Jesus to following some middle class behavioural code that we erroneously call Christian?

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

PONDER AND ACT: This Lent, let us ask who it is we are hanging out with and who would Jesus have us spend our time with. Who are our Levi?


Commit 2

(In Fitzroy we are journeying through Lent in the Travel Narratives of Luke (Chapters 9 to 19). We begin that journey on Monday so in these first few days I am going to draw out some thoughts from the first 9 chapters.)

READ: LUKE 5: 1-11

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Bob Geldof is fond of sharing a quote by mountaineer WH Murray that says, “at the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt could have come his way.

The disciple Peter knew what Geldof and Murray were talking about. The circumstances around him were not good. A night’s fishing; nothing. He can’t have been the happiest fisherman and certainly thought he knew better than the local carpenter. What Peter did, while nothing looked hopeful, was to commit. Once he did… “a whole stream of events issues from the decision…” 

I have known the truth of this in my own life. A three week student trip to Cape Town turned my faith, mission and theology on its head over an entire decade of trips; a blog post on U2 led to a book and years of new friends and opportunities across America; and a coffee with a priest opened up the 4 Corners Festival and so many peacemaking opportunities that I am overwhelmed.

Lent is a time to reassess our commitments. What will we do, even when the scenarios don’t look hopeful. What first step, or first throw, or first coffee will lead to life changing, world changing situations. 

PONDER AND ACT: What might you commit to this Lent season?… Think big… act with a small first step.



Lent Journey


(In Fitzroy we are journeying through Lent in the Travel Narratives of Luke chapters 9 to 19. We begin that journey on Monday so in these first few days I am going to draw out some thoughts from the first 9 chapters.)

READ: LUKE 1:46-55

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord

    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful

    of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

    holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him,

    from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones

    but has lifted up the humble. 

He has filled the hungry with good things

    but has sent the rich away empty. 

He has helped his servant Israel,

    remembering to be merciful 

to Abraham and his descendants forever,

    just as he promised our ancestors.” 

REFLECTION: As we enter Lent and head towards the end of Jesus life and ministry, let us ponder for a day the beginning of The Gospel According To Luke. Luke gives us Mary’s thoughts on who God is and what his mission will be. This is a wide ranging mission. It is going to effect change in how things are. Things are going to be different. This is not just about new relationships between individuals and God. Rulers will be impacted. The injustice of hunger will be put right. The exploiting rich will be dealt with. 

Jesus confirms Mary’s vision on his first public utterance in his home synagogue when he reads from Isaiah: -

READ: LUKE 4: 16-19

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

    because he has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

    and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free, 

    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f] 

As we head on our journey towards Jerusalem, let us ask what we are envisioning to be the full extent of Jesus redeeming reach.  

PONDER AND ACT: If you get a chance watch the movie Selma and inspired by Martin Luther King draw up your dream for the city and country you live in