Readings: Deuteronomy 26:16-19; Matthew 5:43-48
"Pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
Albert Einstein said, "Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." To be proud of one's country is a good instinct. It gives us a useful identity. But when that instinct leads to a blind preference for one's nation at all costs and a hatred of the foreigner then it becomes idolatrous.
In Deuteronomy today we read that if Israel keeps God's commandments, then she will be set "high above all nations". She will be a people consecrated to the Lord. However, the special role of Israel is not intended for her self-glorification but so that she should lead other nations to God. Jesus tell us that loving our neighbours, our own kind, is not exceptional – even sinners do that. What he demands is that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Why? Because God does that: God's rain falls on the honest and dishonest. And this is the God to whom Christians are called to bear witness.
Loving enemies is hard. It is not a question of feelings; it is a matter of good deeds. Who do you see as your enemy, personal or national? Think about that for a moment. Then think of the good Samaritan in Jesus' parable and reflect on what he did. Jesus punctures nationalistic beliefs by showing us how it is the foreigner who behaves more like God. And such love helps us to grow up in the faith.
Almighty God, you chose Israel so that she might reveal to the nations your wonderful love for all peoples. Send your Spirit upon us so that we may transcend our selfish instincts and bear witness by our deeds to your universal love. Amen.