Daily Reflection – 9/12/19
Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”(Luke 6: 27-38)
These words – at turns variously challenging, confusing, and vexing – aren’t just the heart of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount but the very heart of the Christian gospel. It is the inverse logic of the kingdom of God.
What he means, I think, is simply this: Where else do you find the invitation to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and more? Pretty much nowhere. Why? Because it makes no sense.
Jesus comes, you see, to proclaim a kingdom that is in almost every way different from the kingdom of the world, the kingdom that says you should look out for number one, that you love those who love you and hate those who hate you, that life is meant to be lived, finally and always, quid pro quo.
So after setting out his vision for the Christian life, he does two things.
First, he assails the logic of the kingdom of the world. How can we honor things we do out of our own self-interest? Doing good to those who do good to us, loving those who love us, may be the norm, but it is essentially self-centered and nothing to be admired or emulated. And following in that pattern won’t move us beyond the violence-saturated and scarcity-driven history of the world. We have to find a new way forward.
Second, he offers the only motivation strong enough to withstand the pull of the culture to look out first and foremost for our own interests and invite us to take that new path. He point us, that is, to the very nature of God – the one who is merciful and loving even to those who don’t deserve it.
And that includes us.
The only thing that invites love that transcends self-interest, you see, is being loved. And the one thing that prompts mercy that is not self-serving is receiving mercy. So Jesus directs our attention to God, the one who abounds in compassion, mercy, love, and forgiveness.
And because that’s so hard for us to believe, Jesus ultimately won’t just talk about that love, he’ll show hit, spreading his arms wide upon the cross to offer God’s loving embrace to each and all of us.
Prayer of The Day
Dear God, immerse us in your mercy that we might be merciful, submerge us in your love that we might be loving, bathe us in your compassion that we might be compassionate. Teach us to love as you loved.
What makes Christians different and what makes Christianity distinct from any other religion? It is grace — treating others, not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated — with loving-kindness and mercy. God is good to the unjust as well as the just. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit form doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return.
Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil. How can we possibly love those who cause us harm and ill-will? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers all, even our hurts, fears, prejudices and griefs. Do you know the power of Christ’s redeeming love and mercy?