I have said many, many times before: one of the most important things I learned in seminary was that during Ancient Biblical times, people did not have an understanding of emotions. And that means that when the Bible says “love” it is not talking about an emotional response. (Thank you, again, Professor Brink.) So when we speak all of the beloved verses that call us to love….. do justice, love kindness, walk humbly…. three things remain: faith, hope, love and the greatest is love…. love your neighbor as yourself…. That these verses do not speak about emotion. That perhaps a better way to understand these words is to translate love as covenant, rather than emotion.. That to love one another, then, translates to being in covenant with one another.
I am struck by this learning again today, as I watch the Inauguration of our next president. It hits different for me today because of what the Bible says:
Love your enemies.
And that means to be in covenant with my enemies. To remain in covenant, even when we disagree, even when its hard, even when we feel like the other side is not listening. Covenant is love. And we are to stay in covenant with each other, even when it hurts. That is the way of those of us who would call ourselves Christians. As I watch the Inauguration ceremony, I am struck by the way that the pomp and circumstance of this occasion upholds the ideals that we should love our enemies. In civility, in unity, we can continue to stay in covenant, even when we know our enemies are among us. I am struck that our democracy is a beacon of promise, and the Inauguration is the shining light of that beacon. It shows us just how to remain in covenant with one another. Across division, across ideology, across our common humanity. That at its best, Inauguration may also be reconciliation. It may be a moment when we recommit ourselves to the commandment to love our enemies.
And so, as we watch together the passing of the baton that signifies the hallmark of our democracy, let us see the beacon of hope that Inauguration is. Let it be the reminder that we all seek on this day: the idea that reconciliation is possible, the idea that covenant is essential. Our God commands us to love our enemy, and our democracy can teach us just how to do that. It starts by remaining in covenant with one another, even when it seems impossible. Especially when it seems impossible.
So as we celebrate this day, let us offer a prayer: May God bless our democratic ideals that push us closer to the reign of the Holy, and may God keep us in covenant with our enemies. May it be so.