This is about a little old lady named Nora, and she’s 92 years old. This one Sunday morning Nora is in chuch, sitting in the fifth row, and the church is full of people. The pastor walks in and says:
"Today, I am going to preach my sermon, "Love Thine Enemies." Because Jesus said, you must love your enemies.
"Now back in those days, sometimes your enemy would bash your head with a rock, or skewer you with a spear like a corn dog, or shoot your chest full of arrows, and sometimes that’s how you would find out he’s your enemy. But today, people often are not that direct. For example…
"You’re a doctor. You work in that hospital over there. People come in to see you with their ailments and illnesses. You examine them, you diagnose them, you treat them. You might prescribe them some medication. And they get better. Isn’t that how it usually goes? But I know that over the years there have been a few patients who did not like their treatment. Maybe they wanted a different prescription than the one you gave them. So they went to the hospital administration, and the medical board, and they complained about your treatment. You were called on the carpet a few times to explain why these people were so upset. Nothing came of it, but they tried to make trouble for you, even though you cured them and they got better.
"You’re a general contractor. I know, because you built my deck. I really like my deck. Usually, people come to you and ask you to build them something. They may have pictures, and dimensions, and a place where they want it, and specific materials they want you to use. So you draw up a contract, and they sign it, and they pay you, and you build it for them. Usually they are happy with it. But sometimes, after a week, or two, or three, they call you back and say there’s something wrong with what you built for them. There’s something about it they don’t like. Now, if it’s a defect in your workmanship, you fix it right away. But if it’s not a defect in your workmanship, or the materials, or something else that might be your fault, you built what they asked you to build. So then, sometimes they hire an attorney and try to sue you, and then you have to hire an attorney to defend yourself, and you learn that you will never build anything for those people again.
"You’re a teacher. Hundreds of children have sat in your class. Many of them have gone on to graduate from high school, as far as we know, and many of them have gone on to college, and many of them have become productive members of society. As far as we know. But the problem never was with the students. It was always with the parents! I know you had a few parents who took issue with something you said, something you were teaching, even though it was part of your curriculum, and part of the school’s policy, but some of those parents just didn’t like you telling their children some of those things. So they went to the principal, and they went to the school board, and they complained about you. But you were just doing your job, the way you were supposed to, and that was that. But I remember one family, and I’m sure you’d like not to remember that family, who had a little girl in your class, and they didn’t feel they got any justice from the school board. So they persuaded their little girl to say that you had touched her inappropriately, and that led to a whole bunch of drama. There were a few weeks when you weren’t sure if you’d be able to continue your career as a teacher. Now all that matter came to light and it was shown that you had done nothing wrong, but that family really had you up against the rails for a while, didn’t they?
"You have a beautiful wife. Everybody loves your wife. I love your wife. I do not covet your wife. That’s different. There’s a commandment about that. But I think most men like your wife, and then there are some of the women who like your wife, and some don’t. Almost every day, someone comes to you and tells you something about your wife. Something she said, something she did, something they don’t understand, something they don’t like. Now sometimes you don’t pay any attention to it, and if it’s something that bothers you, then later you discuss it with your wife, and you find out it’s not what you heard. But if you were to believe everything people tell you about your wife, your wife would be in trouble with you. And if you were to act on everything that people tell you about your wife, you would be in trouble with your wife. So these people are just trying to get you in trouble with each other.
"You have a boyfriend. He’s a smart young man. He’s going places in the world. I think you should hang on to him. But half the people you know are trying to get you to break up with your boyfriend, so you can date their stupid cousin who digs ditches for a living, whenever anyone will hire him to do it. But most of the time he just stays home and drinks beer, and that’s all he really wants to do anyway. But half the people you know are trying to get you to break up with your boyfriend, for that. Is that what you want? No! I don’t think that’s what you want.
"You’re going to college. You are pursuing higher education. You are learning a marketable skill, I think. You are trying to improve your lot in life. Half the people you know don’t want you do do that. They’d be happier with you if you’d party with them and not study so much. They aren’t doing anything to improve their lives, why should you? And if you stopped studying every night for a few weeks, you know your grades would slip beyond any kind of recovery, and you’d have to take those classes again. You’d fall behind a semester. They wouldn’t care. They’d be happy if your lot in life stayed the same as theirs. Is that what you want? No, not really, not at all, I didn’t think so.
"You have a wonderful car. I like your car. I don’t covet your car. I wouldn’t want to own it, you understand, but I would like to drive it, just once. Do you think, when the collection plate comes around, you could just put your car keys in the plate, and then when it comes up here, I could just take your car for a spin? I think that would be fun. But you know, everybody knows your car. Whenever they see your car, they know that’s you. Some of them are jealous. Some of them are critical of the manufacturer of your car. Some of them can’t afford your car. They have other priorities. And you know, late at night, you put that car in your garage, and you lock it up. Because you know if you didn’t, if you left that car out on your lawn or something, someone might come by and scratch it. Or pour battery acid on it. Or steal the wheels off it and leave it up on blocks there on your lawn as a joke. So I understand why you lock it up at night, and I think you should keep doing that, because I really like your car. A lot.
"I’ve been a pastor here for many years, and I know there have been good people in this parish, good families who came here to church every Sunday, and somehow they got involved in some conflict with someone else in the community. Maybe it was a silly conflict, over someone’s rosebushes, or someone’s dog, or someone’s children. But it was an annoying thing that persisted to the point where these good people began to think, maybe they should look for another house somewhere else. Maybe a bigger house. In a different area. Or maybe they should look for another job, somewhere else. A better job. So when those offers came in, they took them, and they went away, and they took their donation money with them. Now that may have been a natural progression of things for them, but you can’t rule out that if they hadn’t had those silly conflicts that they might have stayed.
"There were two young men I recall, years ago and years apart, who attended church here regularly. But somehow, they got caught up in some disagreement with some of the less reputable people in our community, and it escalated, until it reached a point where they had a ruthless confrontation over it. A violent altercation. And those two men, years ago and years apart, were killed. Now they don’t come here any more except late at night and I’m the only one who can see them. The people who killed them are now members of a different parish up the road, known as the state penitentiary.
"So I ask you, see I’m trying to build up steam for my sermon about Love Thine Enemies, let me see a show of hands, how many of you have an enemy?"
Everyone in the church raised their hands. Except for Nora, the little old lady in the fifth row. She just sat there. The pastor noticed this, so he walked down to the fifth row, and leaned over the pew. and spoke to Nora.
"You didn’t raise your hand."
"No, I didn’t."
"Did you not raise your hand because you don’t have any enemies?"
"No, not a one. I listened to everything you said, and I tried to imagine if there’s anyone like that that I know, and I can’t think of anyone."
"Nora, that’s quite remarkable. Do you mind if I ask how old you are?"
"I’m 92 years old."
"So Nora, what you’re telling me is that you have been walking among us on this earth for 92 years, and you don’t have a single enemy in the world?"
"No, I don’t think I have any enemies."
"Nora, would you mind if I asked you to come up here to the front with me, so that you could tell us your secret?"
"Well, I suppose I could do that."
"Because Nora, I’d like to know. And I think everyone here would like to know how you have managed not to have any enemies at all, anywhere in the world. It would really mean a lot to me, and to everyone, if you would tell us your secret."
"Okay, I can do that," said Nora. So the pastor reached out his hand, and Nora took his hand, and he helped her out of the pew, and walked her up to the front of the church. Then the pastor turned to speak.
"I might be a little embarrassed, here," he began. "All this time I thought I’d be preaching my sermon about Love Thine Enemies, and it never occurred to me that there might be someone among us who doesn’t have any enemies. But Nora, here, has been with us for 92 years, and she claims not to have a single enemy in the world. And I’m thinking this might be a minor miracle, in our midst. So I asked her if she would come up here and tell us all her secret. I know I would like to know how it is that after 92 years on this earth, that Nora does not have any enemies. Would you like to know too?"
And everyone in the church nodded, and some of them said "yes," and a few of them said "amen." So the pastor turned to Nora and said, "OK, Nora, go ahead and tell us your secret."
Nora looked out at all the people in the church, and they all looked at her. Then Nora smiled at all the people in the church, and they all smiled at her. And with her quiet, frail, innocent voice, she began.
"Well, it’s really very simple. I outlived the bitches."
Here’s to outliving the bitches.