Back in Luke, following Jesus as he has passed through the midst of his hometown of Nazareth and went away from them, forced to escape in order to escape a premature death by being thrown off a cliff.
Jesus had to escape because he did not participate in his hometown’s lust for vengeance. They wanted vengeance, the vengeance of God, to set all things right. And for all things to be set right, those Greek Assyrians, those people about 40 miles north of Nazareth, had to pay!! So when Jesus comes along and reads his job description from Isaiah 61, he leaves out their favorite part. The part of the vengeance of our God. Not only did he leave out the part about God’s vengeance, he specifically made the point that not only would God’s vengeance not be brought to bear upon their enemies up north, but the favor of the Lord was just as much for them as for us. He used two stories of Elijah and Elisha from the Old Testament, helping Gentiles (Greek Assyrian Gentiles to be specific) when there were plenty of good Jews around who could have been helped, to make his point. A point which was not lost on those listening. They heard loud and clear that God was not choosing sides, and they immediately tried to kill the messenger, their hometown boy turned Messiah of Israel.
As i wrote before – The easiest way to produce unity and sense of belonging among people is to share a common enemy, a common hatred. To revile a common enemy and believe god hates them because we hate them. The easiest way to unite a people is to share a common vengeance. The people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth all shared a common enemy and hated, and when Jesus made it clear that their enemies were not his enemies, he was no longer their hometown boy made good. He became one of them. After all, if you are not with us, you’re against us, AMEN!!
We want unity, we want to belong. We seek a togetherness, this is ingrained within us. We are deeply conditioned to seek togetherness. And the easiest way to produce this unity is to be united against a common enemy. We can all come together to hate that common enemy.
Our politicians know this, they understand this. And by politicians, I mean the Republicans AND the Democrats. (Of course I am writing as a good Old American here. If you read this in another country, just insert whatever political parties you have!!). Just stir up enough hatred and hostility in our group against them, and I mean, really stir them up!! We gotta fire up the base, after all. If we don’t fire up the base, we can’t win. So we must manufacture our common enemy, someone we can all hate. Then, we have to hate everyone who is for them, because if they are for the one we hate, then we hate them too, AMEN! And we must be right, because there’s more of us than there are of them!! Just wait until those polls open up, we will show them…
But – it’s demonic. It doesn’t feel demonic. It feels good, it’s cathartic. It might even feel like the Holy Spirit is on your side, we get such a relief when we can align ourselves against a common enemy. Especially when we win.
You can see it’s demonic, because when it’s challenged by the prophet, the prophet is attacked. If you don’t believe god is on our side, you must be one of them.
So, Jesus leaves Nazareth, his life and mission still intact.
“And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm.” Luke 4:31-35 ESV. So Jesus leaves the crowd of would be murderers at Nazareth, a crowd of good people, a crowd of people who had known Jesus since he was a young boy. He leaves and heads south to Capernaum, where he was in the synagogue (imagine that – Jesus, who is supposedly so anti-religion, takes part in every religious service) and is confronted by a man with a demon. Pay attention to the words of this demon – “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Do you see where I’m going? What have you to do with US??? Have you come to destroy US?? This demon is all about protecting its own US in the US vs. them paradigm of the world. And for this demon, Jesus is certainly not one of US.
In the unity of us vs them…we, collectively take all our fear, anger, hostility and cast it on them. It sure makes us feel good, it can even feel like the Holy Spirit is with us, we believe God is on our side. Well, God is on our side. But God is also on their side. “”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 sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 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, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Matthew 5:43-47 ESV.
Love your enemies. Love even them. Because our Father in heaven loves them just like he loves us. He loves you just the way you are. He loves them, just the way they are. If we must destroy our brothers (even those we call enemies) to gain our victory, what have we really won? Probably a lot more enemies. Because, trust me on this, you will never be able to kill them all.