Sunday April 22, 2007 | Scott Boren
“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 the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. 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.
To follow Christ is to live a life of love. Love is at the center of Jesus’ message and is the central teaching given in the Sermon on the Plain. To love like Christ is to love even when it is not deserved or expected. It is a radical love that calls us to love our enemies. The call to love also includes loving those who are close to us, even when it’s messy.
Following Jesus is demonstrated as we practice radically loving our enemies. We are to love those who hate, mistreat, and curse us. Jesus calls us to love all. That includes enemies that we know about, but also unexpected enemies, those who are close to us, who do or say something that is hurtful. As a follower of Jesus, we are called to reflect Christ’s love in all of our relationships. We are to relate to one another as Christ has loved us. This is opposite of the world’s message to us. The world tells us to love those who love us, but Jesus teaches us to love others without considering how they treat us.
When someone does harm to us, it is so easy to respond in an unloving way with resistance and retaliation. We are told that this is acceptable by our culture. This is what makes the message of love so offensive and different from the patterns of this world. As the representatives of Jesus in this world we are supposed to be different. We are called to make people wonder, “Why are they still so nice to me, after all I’ve done and said?” This was the ministry of Jesus. He reached out to those that the culture of the time considered enemies such as the prostitutes, the demon possessed the Roman centurions and the tax collectors. Jesus knew who these people were and what they represented to the culture of the time but He chose to do good, bless, and pray for these people. Jesus commands us to “Be merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful.” This is only possible through the power of God in our lives and hearts. Through Jesus we can love those who hate us and bless those who curse us.
To love those who harm us is easier said than done. To love requires faith. It is important to rely upon God in the midst of our messy relationships. God can bring beauty out of the messes in our lives. It also requires intentionality and creativity to respond in a counter-cultural way.
This is a process of making daily decisions to not react as the world tells us, with “justified retaliation”, but instead with prayer and patience for those who hurt us whether family, friend or other person. Through this radical kind of love we can impact our world!