As I imagine families and neighbors gathering this week around Thanksgiving Tables, I’m reminded of the scenes from the Christmas Truce of 1914 in Europe during WWI. Men who hours before had been bitter enemies found commonality in a historic hope for a future peace. Though they came from different sides of the battle, they shared a deep longing around which they could agree.
Perhaps this image is a starting place for us this week. We will not resolve our differences on Thursday, or even in a few weeks or months. Perhaps there is enough at the core of our being to find basic humanity in those around us, even if we’ve known or suspected that they previously did not acknowledge our humanity.
When we look with fear or hatred at the other with whom we disagree, we lose. When we demonize the person, the devil wins. When Jesus encountered a demon-possessed man, the response was pity, and a prayer of healing. When Jesus was tortured, his response was a prayer of forgiveness “for they no not what they do.”
Loving our enemies does not mean accepting their positions or their words and actions. It does mean seeking an upwelling of love within ourselves so that we can see the image of God within them, see them as a child of God who is beloved as we are. If we can’t figure out how to think, feel or behave in a loving way, then we ask God to help us. We trust that if Jesus asks it of us, then we will also receive the strength and grace needed to obey.
Sitting down at table with the other presumes that they will at least be civil, laying down their swords and spears. It may not be time to beat them into plowshares and pruning hooks. “There is a time for love and a time for hate; a time for war and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:8 This week, let it be a time for love, and a time for peace. Perhaps we might even find that when we return to the battle we have less energy for hate and for war, and more hope for a lasting peace founded in God’s justice and shalom.