By Rev. Dr. Linda Hollies
It’s that time of the year when people are asking for letters of references for new jobs and college entrances, so, I get loads of request for letters of references. Sometimes I wonder how to write these letters because none of us have it “all” together! All of us have a “growing edge” or a “weaker side” that we might not want to acknowledge or to work on correcting. However, when I write letters of references, I always try to tell the folks about what I see to make the individual fully recognizable and whole. This means that I will outline the good and the bad; the sweet and the bitter, the positive as well as the negative. And, I call myself a “friend” as I do it. For, I want to relay the truth as I see it. So, the question came to me, “What if I asked my enemy, someone that I know does not like me, to write a letter of reference about me?”
Our friends tend to accept us, warts and all. Our friends are those who we have cultivated relationships with and they take us on both good days and the not so good days. Friends have a tendency to overlook our quirks, our negative habits and our ugly ways. They just seem to think, “This is just the way that they behave.” And, seldom will our friends call us on our “stuff”. This is the reason that we have friends. We like being around those who will just let us be ourselves, without pretense; without airs and without change. But, what would your worst enemy say about you? How would they describe you? How would your disposition, your attitude and your behaviors be described by someone who does not have a “loving” relationship with you? For they too, see us, they watch us and they make judgements about us. But, they don’t have “love” to cover up the multitude of our faults!
The story of Nicodemus coming to see Jesus, late at night, is the story of an enemy coming to visit with questions! Jesus and Nicodemus did not run in the same circles. Nicodemus was a member of The Pharisees. He and his “group” set themselves apart from the “regular and common” Jews in order to observe every facet of The Law. He was also a giant political figure, serving on The Sanhedrin Court. This august body of seventy were akin to the Supreme Court, having the final word on religious matters in Israel. Being a leader of leaders, Nicodemus was wealthy, influential and dead set against all that Jesus stood for with his radical approach to all people. They were certainly not friends. Jesus had trouble with the snotty attitude and the pious behavior of The Pharisees and didn’t keep quiet about his feelings. You might call Jesus and Nicodemus “enemies”, for they were on opposite sides of the “religious” fence.
But, one night, late, under the cover of dark, Nicodemus comes to make inquiry of Jesus.
And, he approaches Jesus with dignity, respect and courtesy as he questions him about his life, his witness and his role modeling among the people. His opening words are, “Rabbi, we know you a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3: 2) This is a high compliment.
This is a sign of utmost regard. And, these are the true feelings of those who don’t like Jesus as a person!
Our enemies are watching us! Our enemies are observing our behaviors. Our enemies are talking about us, behind our back. They are watching to see who we deal with; how we treat folks, what we say and how we live. These leaders did not want to respect Jesus. These great men, in charge, didn’t want to share their glory, their power or their authority. Yet, in watching, keeping a close eye and observing the whereabouts, activities and treatment of people, even they had come to understand and to agree that Jesus was a man of God! They realized that Jesus had God on his side. They agreed that without the power of God, Jesus could not have pulled off his miracles; evaded them or side-stepped the many plots and tricks “they” had planned to trip him up and to have him killed! Jesus had retained a one dimensional life: he loved everybody and treated them all fairly!
And, when his “enemy” came to see him, he had to confess and to acknowledge that Jesus had a love quotient that was greater than anything he’d ever seen or experienced. Jesus got a high compliment from an enemy! Jesus got props from one who had watched him closely in order to see him fall. Jesus was applauded by one who had first felt that there was nothing good about him at all! And, when Nicodemus comes asking questions, Jesus is polite, loving and mutually respectful. My word, what a portrait we have to emulate!
What an example we have to follow. And, what a mighty Savior we have to give high praise to during this Lenten Season.
Lent started on Wednesday, February 9th, as many of us were reminded with the burnt ashes of last Palm Sunday that we are human and that we are the very ones who yell out praise to Jesus Christ on Sundays and then deny him by our lives before Monday evening! So Lent is the forty days before Easter that we remember our Baptismal vows, repent of the foolishness of our ways and either take on the burden of another or give up something sacrificially.
Why not try being nice to an enemy? Wouldn’t that be a novel idea? Why not select someone that you KNOW does not care very much for you and smother them with kind deeds, cards, flowers, friendly notes and even a phone message? Talk about driving them crazy! The reality is that we never know when someone will ask our enemy for a reference about us! Now, ain’t that a stitch to consider? An email informs us that even “they”, our enemies have clout.
I was shocked, confused, bewil dered as I entered Heaven’s door, Not by the beauty of it all,
by the lights or its decor.
But it was the folks in Heaven, my enemies who made me sputter and gasp–
the thieves, the liars, the
sinners, the alcoholics, the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money, twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice.
Diane, who I always thought
was rotting away in hell,
was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, “What’s the deal?
I would love to hear your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a huge mistake.
And why’s everyone so quiet, so somber?
Come on, give me just a clue.”
“Hush, child,” said Jesus. “They’re all in shock.
No one thought they’d ever see you!”
On the journey with ya! Let’s live holy; laugh often; and let’s love with flair and with extravagance! Shalom! Sista Linda.