Do you remember analogies?
I do. They’re part of most major school exams and also a part of the SAT exam. Here’s a sample one from an online test prep site:
CRUMB : BREAD ::
(A) ounce : unit
(B) splinter : wood
(C) water : bucket
(D) twine : rope
(E) cream : butter
The answer, of course, is B. A crumb is a smaller piece of a larger piece of bread; a splinter is a smaller piece of a larger piece of wood. Crumbs and bread are very different things than splinters and wood, but both sets of objects share the same relationship.
I found myself thinking about this recently when I stumbled across Luke 6:35-36:
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
When you stumble across “the ungrateful and wicked,” do a series of faces and names spring to mind? Do you have – it’s funny to write this – an “enemies” list? I know I do; all Christians do. Because when we hear “love your enemies,” we tend to think of ourselves as the good guys. We always place ourselves in a superior position – it feels good to think of ourselves as people who will be kind to our enemies, to all the people in our lives who are uncharitable, unkind, who treat us badly.
The problem is that when you go around thinking of people as enemies, you automatically set yourself apart from them. As Christians we do this a lot, differentiating ourselves from non-believers by reminding ourselves and often everyone around us that they are “sinners” but we are “sinners saved by grace.” This is true, but what we often forget is that grace has nothing to do with us. We were not saved because we were good or special; God’s grace is not something we conferred upon ourselves. Acting as though being a “sinner saved by grace” is a personal credit to us is like a beggar acting as though it’s a noble act for him to nod his head “yes” when someone offers to drop food into his shaking hands.
That we are sinners saved by grace, and therefore set apart, has everything to do with God.
Which is why that Bible verse so trapped me when I read it. There’s an analogy hiding in there. “Treat your enemies,” God is saying, “as I treat you.” It’s worth paying attention to that relationship. Yes, we are sinners saved by grace. But we are also, simultaneously, the ungrateful and the wicked. And for every time that we look at the word “enemies” in the Bible and conjure up a set of names and faces to pray for, I think it’s useful and humbling to remember to keep in mind exactly what we are: wanderers who stumbled into grace given freely by the King.