Hebrew society was basically tribal in nature, composed of huge extended families that took care of their own. Although based on God's holiness, all the commands to love are concerned with those within the tribe: family, relatives, countrymen, and neighbor. Those outside the tribal network were also outside the network of care and concern, left to God's providence.
In the portion of the Sermon on the Mount which we just heard, Jesus repeats the ancient law and then expands it, inviting his disciples to share in God's care for everyone. For Jesus, there are no insiders or outsiders. Everyone is to be cared for.
However, today we find in our society continued attempts to make some the enemy, the threat and the outsider. It may be those we label the poor or the homeless which we think and sometimes say out loud: “they only have to pull themselves up by their boot straps”. They would but the problem is they don’t have any boots to be pulled up! It may be the immigrant whether here legally or not. It may be those who literally fleeing for their lives as refugees. It may be those whose perspective or politics or life-style runs contrary to our own. It's all so easy to give in to this tendency to exclude and divide, especially as we witnessed in the various campaigns this past fall and as it continues today in the new administration. We are becoming more insular and more isolationist, and more protectionist in thought and in deed.
But there is no need to despair or give up. Today we are reminded that despite our occasional failures and our tendency to exclude, we remain temples of God's presence, capable of greatness and generosity in imitation of the God who is holy, the Father who is perfect. Such greatness and generosity that stretches out to those who are perceived as threats is within our reach. It is not something imposed upon us as foreign but comes from deep within us where God's spirit dwells and represents the best of who we are. Commandments are imposed; but, the response Christ seeks springs from the reality that we are temples of the Spirit of God and so comes from following of that Spirit.
Today we are asked simply to act as the people we already are but might be hesitant at times to reveal: people who understand that the real enemies are those who use violence in the name of respect for life, those who undermine the dignity and rights of others, those who misuse the name Christian by seeking to divide rather than bring together. For the true child of the heavenly Father, there is no "us" vs. "them", for when the so-called "enemy" or “threat” is treated as brother or sister, as fellow countryman, or as neighbor, he/she is now family.