ONE of the more challenging parts of Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, at least to me, is the verse in Matthew's Gospel where Jesus is recorded as saying, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (5:44).
Jesus' vision of love was vastly more expansive and inclusive than what we usually consider love to be. Jesus understood that God is Love itself. He often referred to God, divine Love, as a caring Parent who looks after the well-being of all His children. Jesus' life shows us that Love is a palpable, living presence that has continuity, compassion, and power in it-power that conquers hate and evil-power that heals.
But Jesus' expression of Love went further than just loving those who sought his help and loved him. He also loved those who ignorantly feared his teaching, opposed his doctrine, and even actively worked to kill him. By his example, Jesus taught us that we must love our enemies too!
I was able to prove the healing power of loving in this way early last summer. The tourist business in our city was looking forward to a successful season. But unusually hot, humid weather in early June threatened our expectations. Visitors were canceling room reservations all over town.
My new bed-and-breakfast business was off to a slow start. Future reservations were not coming in the way they should. Added to this was the suggestion that my direct competitors in the neighborhood felt I was part of the reason they were losing business.
Because I had been benefited by praying to God about problems in the past, I began to do so now. I began to affirm that the services my business offered had a spiritual basis. They included things like friendliness, beauty, order, security, comfort, helpfulness, convenience, cleanliness, and safety. I knew these ideas were evident all over our city as well.
But, my prayer left out my competitors! So I prayed further to understand that each of the hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, tourist homes, and hostels was designed to provide service in its unique way. This service was an expression of Love, so it could not generate hate. What generated hate or conflict was the belief that weather conditions, seasonal demand, market trends, and human will could result in competition that could destroy others. God's universe does not include a destructive or competing power. God alone is the agent, if you will, of placing us where we can best express Him and best be benefited-tourist, employee, and merchant alike.
This larger sense of Love took away the fear that my business could be hurt. Within a short time, steady bookings came in, even though the hot weather continued for many more weeks. At the end of the season, I had recorded more business than the previous year, as bookings continued past the ordinary tourist season.
This experience again taught me the need to seek and affirm the presence of the all-encompassing, loving God that Jesus told us about when he said: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).
This kingdom of God can be experienced now as unthreatened abundance, victory, and harmony as we express love toward others. The Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy, tells us in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "The test of all prayer lies in the answer to these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer? If selfishness has given place to kindness, we shall regard our neighbor unselfishly, and bless them that curse us; but we shall never meet this great duty simply by asking that it may be done" (p. 9).
Loving unselfishly had certainly blessed me, and I found out later that the city's tourist industry reported record-high sales that season!