The Rev. Calvon T. Jones, Assistant Minister, the Memorial Church. File Photo by Jeffrey Blackwell/Memorial Church Communications.
By the Rev. Calvon T. Jones
The Memorial Church of Harvard University
(The following is a transcript from the service audio)
It is an honor to stand before you all this morning to declare God's Word. I give honor to God who is indeed the head of my life. And I also have to honor the woman who is my number one lady, the sweet potato for my sweet potato pie, my dear wife. You can clap for her. I also thank God for my two sisters, big sisters who came from Connecticut, Deacon Grant and Pastor Sabina. Thank you so much for taking the time to come to the Memorial Church. I also honor my mentor, the Dean of Andover Newton at Yale Divinity School, Dean Sarah Drummond. And her beloved mother, my auntie, Jackie. Thank you for being here.
Pray with me. Now let the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight oh God. You alone are my rock and my most blessed Redeemer.
You have heard the readings today and I would like to place a tag upon this context for it constitutes the context from which I will attempt to preach today. Let love rise above your enemies. Let love rise above your enemies. In Luke Chapter 6, Jesus gives a message that is similar to the Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew. However, this time, instead of Jesus preaching from the mountain, Jesus comes down with the people and he preaches on the plane, on the ground. He stirs up the crowd with these powerful words, known as the Beatitudes.
"Blessed are you, happy are you if you are poor in spirit for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry, those who mourn for you will laugh. Happy are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of Christ." The crowd could have probably been okay with these words beloved, but then Jesus flips the script. Come on somebody. Jesus says, "But to you who are listening, I say, love your enemies."
In my homiletical and sanctified imagination, I can hear chatter from that first century audience. I can hear people saying, "Jesus, I was okay with happy are you when people hate you, lie on you and say all manner of evil against you. That doesn't require action. That's just a part of life. That does not require difficult work, but you want me to love my enemies? Jesus, you got to be crazy." And I must be honest with you this morning, Memorial Church. If there was one commandment that I would love to have from the cannon, it would be this one. It is easy to love those who love you. Come on. It's easy to love those who are nice to you, those you can get along with, those who make you smile. Those who are kind to you, those who support you, encourage you. Those who are nice to you. But what about those who get on your last, I mean, last Suzanne nerve?
Beloved, I don't mean to brush your bubble this Sunday morning, but I have a word from the Lord and I promise you I'm going to be in the way and out the way. Everybody's not going to like you. They're going to be some people who hate you just because you look good. Y'all don't want to talk back to Reverend Jones. There are going to be some people who will test you in ways you never have been tested.
Some people will hate you because of how you dress or how you talk. Some people will hate you without a cause. Some people will become your enemy just because you showed up to the Memorial Church this morning. Some will say you have sat in their seat and you have come their enemy. Some will not like you because you love the Lord. Some people will become your enemies because you don't do what they want you to do. Some people will not like you because you have joy in your soul, because you choose happiness rather than gossip and mischief. Some people do not like you because you choose boundaries and you would rather have peace than anger.
No matter how saved you are, no matter how religious you may be, no matter how sanctimonious you may be this morning, we all have enemies. And if you don't know you have enemies, you may just not be aware of it. Church, without question, everybody is not going to like you, especially when you stand for justice, especially when you walk in the fullness of who God has called you to be. When you are unapologetically who God has called it be, when you tap into your purpose, when you walk in the anointing that God has on your life, you will have enemies.
Truth be told, some of us in this morning have been wrestling with people who have been stirring up hell in our lives. And we'll be honest today, when we tapped into our dreams and begin to stand for that which is counter-cultural, we attracted enemies. Enemies on our jobs, enemies in our homes, enemies in our families, in our community, and even, may I say, in the church. Sometime the worst enemies you'll find are those who say they love the Lord. Y'all don't want to talk. Sometime the worst enemies are those who say they have the Lord in their lives. Sometimes the worst pain that has been inflicted on this earth has been by so-called Christians, walking under the cross, but walking amen with hate and racism. Walking under the cross, but not able to love those just because they have a different color.
Church, I must confess this morning, when I gave God my heart and the preacher my hand, I just knew that life would be ice cream and cookies. However, I found out that when you truly walk in the anointing that's over your life, it will not only produce accolades, honor, recognition, acceptance, and approval. It may produce hurt. People will lie on you.
It may produce a well of tears and nights of pain and sorrow days where you have to heal from the tragedies that people have called. However, Jesus challenges us to do what? Love our enemies. This is not easy. I would not be telling you the truth if I said otherwise. How can you love those who said they love you, but hurt you? How can you love those who were supposed to love you, but inflicted the most pain? It requires a love that you and I can't do alone. It requires a love that is out of this world. It requires a love that is rooted in the love of God. It requires the power of God. This kind of love requires a God-centered love. This love is not something you can get from the bank. This love is not something that you can order on Amazon or get delivered through UPS. This love is not something that you can obtain with your money, your degree or prestige.
This kind of love, this difficult love, amen, requires the power of God to transform your heart in a way that you never thought would happen. The Greek language comes out of another word for love, "agape." Agape is more than "eros." And in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men." It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love. It's what theologians would call the love of God, working in the lives of men. And when you rise to the love on this level, you begin to love people. Not because they're likable, but you love them because God loves them. You look at every person and you love them because God loves them and they may be the worst person you ever seen. However, Jesus calls us to love our enemies.
When I think of someone who is that exemplar, I think of Joseph. Joseph the one whose character and gifts intimidated his brothers. Joseph the who was favored by his father. Joseph the one who was a beacon of light within a disjointed family. Joseph was despised by his brothers. They set out to murder him, Sarah. The ones who were his blood. Sometimes blood is not thicker than water. They set him up. Joseph's enemies were his own kin. However, after the fact, God blesses Joseph. Joseph rises to the ranks of Egypt. He rose to be the second in command to the king. And in the Scripture, Joseph is at a point of reconciliation and I am sure the hurt and pain was yet present in his heart because these were his brothers, his own family who he loved, who he thought loved him but they betrayed him.
Have you ever been betrayed by the last person you thought would betray you? And God, you are bringing me to a point to love them? And not only have you been betrayed, but have you ever wanted to get back at them? See, I wish I could just talk to some real people in here today. Have you ever wanted to get back?
This is not like Joseph could not get back. Joseph now has all the power in the world to destroy them. This agape love is a love that when you have the ability to defeat your enemy, you choose love. He has the power to cut off their food supply. He has the power to command and watch his brothers die. However, what does Joseph do? He cries. Reintroduces himself. Says, "I'm Joseph. I'm still your brother. Find my dad. I have come in love. I've come not with hate, but I've come with the love, not of this world." This type of love frees you.
So many times we hold on to what people have done, but I have news for you. It's time to not allow people to live in your heart rent free. Joseph in my sanctified imagination, chooses agape love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. Jesus commands us to love because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated. But love, agape love has within it redemptive power. There was a power within this agape love that eventually transforms your hater. And that's why I have news for you today, that if you've been trying to love your enemies by yourself, you're not going to be able to do it. It takes the love of God. A love that will confuse your enemies. A love that will even transform them. Keep on loving people, Memorial Church, if they're mistreating you. Don't embarrass them. Don't try to write a long email. Don't try to put it in the Harvard Gazette. Don't try to post it on Facebook. Don't try to put it on Twitter, but take it to God and say, "I'm going to love you because I'm not going to walk around with this burden any longer."
Beloved, as I go to my seat. I know some of you all are looking at the time. I'm almost done. Some of you all have been carrying this load of hate too long, but I encourage you to embrace the love of God. God's love, agape love is what the world needs today. A love that stands even in the face of racism, a love that stands even in the face of bigotry, a love that stands even in the face of sexism, hate and systemic oppression. Do I have a witness today? A love that stands in the face of pain and infliction. We need love in this fragmented world.
Church, this type of love is what will heal brokenness. This type of love is what will cause white churches and Black churches to come together. This love that I'm talking about this morning is a love that will unite us. This love is the only love that's going to fix the divide on Washington Hill. This type of love will help us rise from the dark valley of racial injustice to the sun-lit road of racial equality. I'm talking about God's love. This type of love is what we need in this world. In order for us to rise above our enemies, we have to look to Christ.
And as I begin to move away from this mic, who can we look to who exemplifies and demonstrates agape love? Jesus Christ had the love to shape the hinges of the gates of the Roman empire. All around the world today, we can feel the love of Christ. No matter how they tried to stop Christ, he kept on loving his enemies.
He was known for putting the lawyers out of business because he solved every case. He was known for putting the lounges out of business because he transformed the lives of prostitutes. He was known for putting doctors out of business because he healed as sick. He was known for putting the psychiatrist out of business because he provided mental health services. Do I have a witness? He was known for putting health insurance companies out of business because he gave universal healthcare. He was known for putting the insurance companies out of business because he went around raising the dead. I'm talking about agape love. He was known for eating with the people who we church folks don't want to deal with; the outcast, the marginalized. I'm talking about love that goes beyond how much money you have. I'm talking about love that requires you to get your hands dirty. I'm talking about Jesus's love.
So as I go to my seat, don't hold on to your enemies. But I'm grateful for every enemy that I've had in my life. If I had to do something, you know what I would do today? I would write a thank you letter. And I would write it out to every enemy that came and tried to write me off, that said I wouldn't be anything, that said I wouldn't be the first-generation college student. Who said, because I was a Black man, I wouldn't be able to be who I am in this white space. I'd be able to tell every person who said I wasn't intelligent enough to go to Yale University, I would write a thank you letter and said, "Thank you for not believing in me. Thank you for trying to write me off with every stereotype in the book. Because of you, I kept on moving. Because of you, I kept on preaching. Because of you, I love you."