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)
Jesus’ words in today’s scripture about loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who mistreat us, turning the other cheek, is the most difficult of all of his teachings.
When someone hates you, you have two choices: to hate back or to refuse to hate. Jesus clearly asks us to refuse to hate, to love our enemies, to do to others as we would have them do to us. That’s his teaching. But it is clear that many people do not follow his teaching. They may feel that the golden rule is foolish or impractical. Therefore, they decide to return hate with hate, to return hurt with hurt. Their golden rule is: “Do to others as they have done to you.”
The results of this approach are easy to find. Look at the newspapers. Watch the media. Look at the situation in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, in India and Pakistan: “You hurt us, we’ll hurt you.” Look at the retribution that characterizes the gang violence in our cities. Recognize the number of families in our society who are addressing their disputes with handguns. “We’re just getting even,” they say. But of course, it never amounts to getting even. Violence grows into an escalating cycle of destruction and hatred.
Look at politics around the world including the United States. Civil discourse is absent. Neighbor is set against neighbor. Words of rancor, of meanness, of retribution are splattered across the internet, social media and the world of twitter. And very often, they come from people who claim to be followers of Christ!!!
So, I must ask these questions. How is “getting even” affecting your relationships? Are you satisfied with the way hurting and hating back is shaping your life? Do you find that holding on to resentments with your family or friends is working for you? Are you satisfied with waiting for others to suffer as you have suffered? In short, are you satisfied with the kind of world that emerges when we respond with hate and hurt, when we do to others as they have done to us? Most of us would admit that such a world is a disaster.
Hatred is a moral cancer. Just as cancer spreads and ultimately destroys its host, so too does hatred. It slowly affects every thought and every action. Make no mistake about it. It is evil and a blaspheme against God. It destroys a person and a person’s relationship with God.
Now let’s be clear: when we talk about loving our enemy, when we talk about forgiving those who hurt us, we are not denying our right to defend ourselves. We are not advising that we accept abuse and manipulation. We are saying that when we respond to our enemy, we choose to do so in a way that breaks the cycle of violence rather than feeding it. We choose not to hate because we know that hating will only lessen our life and endanger our world.
Jesus’ teaching is not easy. We would all like another option. But there are only two options on the table. Therefore, if you are satisfied with the kind of world that results from returning hate with hate, getting even, treating others as they have treated you, then reject Jesus’ teaching as misguided. But if that kind of world of increasing violence and hatred sickens you, then maybe it is time to follow what the Lord commands. Maybe it is time to love our enemy, to forgive the one who hurts us, to do to others as we would have them do to us.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart free with your merciful love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me bitter towards anyone.”
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 from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return.