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Monday, January 19, 2015
Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today’s Reading | Matthew 5:43–48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (NRSV)

The first time I travelled to Cuba was about six weeks after September 11, 2001. The events of that fateful day were still very fresh in our hearts and minds, and our nerves were still quite raw. We were just beginning to figure out what it means to live in a post-9/11 world.

My only knowledge of Cuba was based on Cold War stories I had read in history books. The US embargo of Cuba did not make much sense to me. But I had been raised to believe that communist Cubans were my enemies, and I had every reason to believe that they would hate me simply for being a citizen of the nation oppressing them.

But I did not experience any such hatred in Cuba. There was only love—love reaching out to us and to our nation in a time of immense pain and adversity. I was profoundly shocked and deeply humbled. Everywhere we went we were greeted by love. It was perhaps the greatest lesson in loving one’s enemy that I have ever learned.

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we still have many lessons to learn when it comes to loving our enemies—or people we assume are our enemies or treat like our enemies or used to be our enemies or think of us as enemies. For those of us who stand on the powerful side of privilege and oppression, we have many lessons to learn about receiving love and being humbled by it.

On this day I pray that we might be more honest with ourselves about the evils of our past, recognize painful wounds that have never healed, and commit ourselves to the critical work of peacemaking and reconciliation yet to be done. Perhaps that might bring us a few steps closer to being the children of God we were born to be.

On this day, O God, may I find inspiration in the words of Jesus and the witness of Martin Luther King Jr. Even more, may I find the courage to change the world by first changing myself. Amen.

Written by John W. Vest, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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