27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.[a] Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:27-38 NRSV)
Last week we read about Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. Jesus comes down from a mountain after a night of prayer and meets his followers where they are. They have traveled from far and wide and I suspect they come from a variety of economic conditions. The vast majority were probably poor.
Jesus speaks words easy to listen to if you’re poor and hungry; difficult to hear if you’re rich. You’re blessed if you’re hungry, and trouble is coming your way if you’re full. You’re blessed if you’re weeping, poor, or hated. The kingdom is yours. But if you’re rich, laughing or thought well of, watch out. Trouble lies ahead.
I suggest that we not look at last week’s scripture from one side or the other, but from the middle. Get right with God; drop those idols (as much as possible) and then look around. Look to see who’s laughing and who’s weeping and why. Don’t be afraid to gaze on the poor and the rich. Take stock of those who are hated and those who are highly respected.
What you will probably see is a hardy dose of reality mixed with glimpses of the kingdom.
If last week was difficult, put your seats belt on. There’s turbulence ahead.
Love your enemies, bless your abusers, turn the other cheek, give your shirt and your coat, as well. Love your enemies. Jesus says it more than once.
Again, I suggest that we go to the heart of this scripture rather than view it as either/or. Either I love my enemy or hate him. Either I turn my cheek of I slap him back.
At the heart is the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (v. 31)
The story goes that Rabbi Hillel was approached by a young man who told him that if he could teach him the whole law while standing on one foot, he’d convert. The wise rabbi gazed on him for a moment and then lifted one leg, saying, “That which is despicable to you, do not do to a fellow. That is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.” (Shabbat 31:7)
If we’re right with God, we can see the pain of others and we can respond to them the way we would want to be treated. Being God’s beloved children, we do not respond as a Casper Milquetoast. We respond with dignity. If turning the other cheek is your course of action, do so with dignity and love.
Perhaps we could turn to Paul for assistance with this. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.'” (Romans 12:19-20)
As Jesus walked this earth, he was enacting a future of equality for all. The rich and poor, the bullies and the abused, all sharing in the Messianic Banquet. All are equal: the ungrateful and the wicked as well as the merciful.
So what do we do with all this? We continue getting our lives sorted out, if we haven’t already done it. We quit hanging on to stuff: the stuff taking up space in our closets, the stuff clogging our hearts from loving others, the stuff that hangs around like baggage controlling how we think and act and respond.
It’s a life long task, but the closer to the center we get, the closer to understanding the beatitudes and loving enemies we come. With listening ears on Jesus we discover better ways to respond to those who would rather hurt and bully others.
Jesus was generous just as His Father is generous. We, too, can be generous. We begin with ourselves: treating others as we would want to be treated. We move to God who is full of mercy and extends that mercy. Then we look to the other with love. Not an easy, squishy love filled with valentine hearts and candy.
No, a love that is filled with grace, even to those we would rather turn our backs on or drop a bomb on, and seek to understand the human and divine.
It’s a tall order. Few of us will completely succeed. Knowing we’re saved by grace through faith, though, makes us ready and willing to seek the kingdom.
Love others. Love yourself. Because God loves you.
All glory and honor be to God.