When I am in New York City, I make it a point to pay a visit to MOMA (Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art). I am not a devotee of modern art, but I like to be challenged to think in innovative and creative ways and the museum never fails to make me ponder anew.
Last week, I was strolling through the second floor and came across a work by the American artist Sharon Hayes entitled: Everything Else Has Failed! Don’t You Think It’s Time For Love? The medium which the artist chose to use was a five-channel public address system audio installation and five spray paint posters on paper using the title of the work. From September 17–21, 2007, Sharon Hayes emerged from the corporate headquarters of UBS in midtown Manhattan, at lunchtime to speak to an anonymous lover. Beginning “My dear lover” or “my sweet lover,” the texts Hayes spoke were addressed to an unnamed “you” who the speaker was separated from for some unexplained reason. Woven in between comments on and about personal longing and desire, were comments about politics, war and the trauma and dislocation of living in a moment of war. It is a powerful piece that speaks poignantly to the times in which we live.
I reflected on Hayes’ work as I was rereading the fifth letter by Henri Nouwen to his young nephew, Marc. In particular, I was struck by the lines: “’Love your enemies’. In these words we have the clearest expression of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Love for one’s enemy is the touchstone of being a Christian” (page 54).
Is that your standard or criterion by which you judge yourself as a disciple of Jesus? Challenging isn’t it? But, Nouwen has a means of speaking straight to the truth of the Christian way and life.
There were times last week, as I was walking the streets of the Big Apple (after the Macy’s Parade and on Black Friday) where my guard was very high - living in that motto of “See something, Say something”. The world’s events have made even going to a joy-filled event like the Thanksgiving Day Parade a cautionary endeavor. It seems as if our world and especially our nation lives more out of fear these days than faith (trust). How would our lives be different if we actually prayed for our enemies and got along peacefully with our daily affairs than living with the anxiety and belief that something awful is about to happen.
“An eye for and eye” has not gotten our world any nearer to peace and tranquility. “They will hear from us soon”, may have made us feel good at the moment but has brought with it over the course of the last decade an escalation in violence and terror. I cannot remember any period in my life where the world, or this nation, has not been in some sort of conflict, have you?
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those curse you, pray for those who treat you badly… Treat others as you would like people to treat you.”
What if you and I started the revolution all over again? What if you and I prayed for the folks who call themselves ISIS; the man who stormed the Planned Parenthood facility last week in Colorado; the young man who shot those dear Christians gathered for Bible study in Charleston; the thief who lives in East Cleveland; the friend who spoke ill of us the other day to a neighbor?
It seems trite to say this, but I find no other way out of the mess we humans have made except “on our knees” praying feverishly for God’s grace, mercy and guidance. Our world, our leaders, our communities in which we live, you and I are in need of a conversion. As Nouwen wrote so beautifully: “Jesus challenges us to move into a totally new direction … a complete interior turn-around, a transformation.”
There are living exemplars which give all of us hope. The church members in Charleston. The Mennonites in Pennsylvania. The brother of one of the victims of the Colorado shooting last week. The brother of a slain concert goer in Paris. These people have crossed over and are examples to all of us of Light standing against Darkness. These bright lights have made Nouwen’s words a reality: “Within prayer, you quickly discover that your enemies are in fact fellow human beings loved by God just as much as yourself. The result is that the walls you have thrown up between “him and me,” “us and them,” “ours and theirs,” disappear. Your heart grows deeper and broader and opens up more and more to all the human beings with whom God has peopled the earth.”
Who is your enemy? Who is your enemy that is in need of prayer? In God’s eyes, we are all the same.
May we encourage one another in the days ahead, in this journey called life, to be about prayer so that the conversion to love as God loves may begin in our hearts but spread to everyone whom we meet.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reflections.
Be well - Brian
Rules of Engagement
You are entitled to your opinion as much as the next person is entitled to their opinion. These discussions over the course of the next seven weeks are for our mutual enjoyment and benefit. You may disagree – but you must do so in a spirit of love and common understanding. If I should discern that a post is “attacking” in nature or derogatory, I will pull it from the site. Your assistance and understanding is gratefully appreciated!