“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“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 are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
In this passage from Luke’s Gospel, we hear Jesus preaching to his followers, telling them to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who abuse you.”
To my mind, this is one of the hardest lessons in all of Scripture. Jesus is asking an awful lot of us. Love our enemies? Really? Can we do that?
We are taught to turn the other cheek, but isn’t that usually the last thing we want to do in a stressful situation? It’s more likely that we want to lash out at the person who has hurt us, either physically or emotionally. When we do this, however, we can escalate the situation and make things worse. Later, we realize seeking retribution was the wrong thing to do, so we apologize.
Jesus says, “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” As Christians, we are called to be like Jesus, to be merciful and kind, even to those who hate or persecute us. Lent is a time to remind ourselves of what Jesus preached: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Appointed readings for today: Daniel 9:3-10, Psalm 79:1-9, Luke 6:27-38