To love your enemy and break boundaries.
The Danish flag, Dannebrog, is a beautiful flag. Possible the most beautiful flag in the world, any Dane would agree on. It instills fine memories and fine emotions for most Danes. The Danish flag greets us every Sunday at church, flying high against the blue blue California sky, alongside with the American Flag. These two flags signal to all of us that we are indeed a Danish Lutheran Church deeply planted and rooted in American soil.
I just read today’s Gospel from the Sermon of the Mount, - a sermon filled with many radical teachings and moral challenges: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Then I can’t help thinking about the story about how the Danes got the Danish flag. It fell from the sky, it is told, at a violent battle in Estonia June 15 1219. What was the mighty Danish King Valdemar and the entire Danish Army doing in Estonia back then …? They were on a Crusade. They were trying to win the Estonians over to Christianity with swords in hand.
But Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!”
That day in 1219 the Danish flag was a symbol of power; a sign that there were friends and enemies. That day in 1219 on the battle fields the friends gathered under the Danish flag and all the rest were enemies that needed to be defeated or killed. The Flag was used to draw lines and make boundaries between them and us.
The Danish Flag is beautiful and it has a long story of victory, violence and of peace and prosperity. The Danish flag has a warm red color, the color of love and passion, adorned with the white pure cross, that tells us about Gods love for humanity through Jesus Christ. This beautiful white cross in our flag reminds us, how God wants us to transform our enemies into our friends with the power of love: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” The pure white cross tells us that God breaks down boundaries and borders. From heaven to earth, from place to place, from time to time. God did break his own boundaries, when he came to the world as Jesus Christ. The white cross tells us the story about the eternal and never ending love of God that did break boundaries and still does.
To love is to break boundaries. To let someone else get so close to you that you must surrender and leave behind any resistance.
Granted, it is one of the most radical teachings of the Bible, that Jesus asks us to love…. Not only our friends, our families and those we like, but to love and pray for those who are our enemies, those we do not like, those we are afraid of and those we might truly despise.
Then we are back with the red warm color of the flag. It is all about our own red beating living heart. If I think, that a certain person is my enemy, then I do make my heart hard and cold towards that person. And then my heart is no long red or warm but begins to get cold, frozen and faded. And if we think and hold one person or a group as enemies, we too become an enemy of them.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
It is extremely hard for us to live by these standards. Not only in our private lives, but even more in our public political and polarized world. We constantly draw line between them and us, friends and enemies, allies and enemies.
Even if the teachings of Christ might be hard, they are still true; and if we want to be like God, we must love like God, and try to be perfect as God. Out there in the real-world reality waits for us. Our there the world is full of friends and enemies, friendships and enmities, peace and war, inclusiveness, and exclusiveness.
That is exactly why Jesus urged us to love…
That is why Gandhi urged us to remember and realize that “An eye of an eye makes the whole world blind.”
That is why Martin Luther King Jr. fought for justice and change to remind us about the power of love to break boundaries and breaks the evil circle of revenge end retaliation. He said “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. “
That is exactly why Jesus challenged us to “pray for those who persecute us…”
It is our Christian prayer to ask God to transform my enemy into my friend. When we pray for our enemies, we also ask God to remove the hatred and retaliation from our hearts, so they will remain warm, red and beating. To love is to break down boundaries.
The Danish flag is indeed beautiful. Red and white. We pledge not to use it for wars and crusades, but to break down boundaries and show what we believe in. Let us not think about the bloody battle fields of 1219, let us think about the happy day when King Christian 10 did ride on his white horse over the borders in 1920 surrounded and greeted by waving Danish Flags and beating warm united hearts.
To love is to breaks down boundaries.
Let us think about a small happy child, celebrating birthday with flags on her birthday cake or let us think of The Danish Queen being greeted with a sea of Red and white Flags at Amalienborg Castle on her birthday.
Or look at the flags in the hall today uniting us as we come from different parts of the country and even the world.
Think about the Danish flag and the joy it can bring to us. A flag that reminds us that we live in the world, that God so much loved that he sent his son to break down boundaries and break down division between them and us.
Oscar Wilde once said: “Forgive for enemies nothing irritates them more!”
As the wise Desmond Tutu said in “The book of forgiveness”
“When a hurt or harm happens, we can choose to hurt back or to heal. If we choose to retaliate or pay back, the cycle of revenge and harm continues endlessly, but if we choose to forgive, we break the cycle and we can heal, renew or release the relationship.”
We have sung the songs of faith. We have heard the challenges of scripture. Let us go now, continuing our sacred journey in an attitude of service and grace. Let us love our enemies and pray for those who do us harm. Let us care for those who are evil as well as for those who are good, knowing how to set boundaries. And the presence of our God goes with us. Amen.