“But I say to you that listen, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other side also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.'”
~Luke 6.27-31, NRSV
These words have been described as apart of “the hard sayings of Jesus.” But, what makes them hard? Why is it challenging for us to love our adversary, to speak favorably to those who speak harshly to us, to give ourselves over to a hand that seeks to demean or take from us? Why is it difficult for us to give to those who are in need and to not ask for what rightfully belongs to us? Is it because of our sinful nature that makes it quite natural to want to do just the opposite? It is just so easy for us to return the favor so to speak, to play the game of “tit for tat,” to do what has been done to us. As the saying goes, “Monkey see; monkey do.”
And race gives us the excuse to continue in such godless behavior wherein there is no possibility of forgiveness or restoration of relationship. We want to do to others what has been done to us. We find just cause in history and in our present living conditions. So, why should we change or treat them any differently than they have treated us? We resolve that when they treat us better, then we will treat them better. When they apologize, then we will forgive them. But, what if they don’t change or apologize? Are we then willing to remain in the same position, dependent upon the actions of another in order for us to live differently? Will we not take the lead or continue to follow in the same unforgiving footsteps of those before us?
We seem not to tire of hating or cursing, debasing or denying. The flesh is always ready to give what it has received. Imitation is easy; anyone can do it. Such actions do not require special gifts or unique talents. Repetition requires nothing new from us and does not set us apart from others. But doing what is not expected, challenging historical impulses, takes courage. It takes faith and hope in the possibilities that Christ offers us as believers.
Jesus’ words offer a lesson in self- denial and he raises our life’s expectation, challenging us to do what we would want others to do for us.
He removes all excuses. Do you want to be loved, then love? Don’t let anyone’s treatment of you change who you are. Don’t become the enemy, the hater, the oppressor? Don’t become judgmental and stingy. Give because if you were in that condition, you would want some one to give to you. See yourself in everyone, as a part of you, as a member of your family. Christ’s words seek to encourage a healthy self- perception and treatment of ourselves and in turn, a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with others.
Race says, “Do unto others as it benefits you. Treat people how they have treated you. Don’t talk to people who don’t talk to you. Hate people who have hated you. Repeat history.” But, Christ has made us “new creatures” (Second Corinthians 5.17) and God is doing a new thing (Isaiah 43.19). We have been born again. We need only the eyes to see it.
Lord, open the eyes of our heart so that we might be able to do unto others as we would have them do to us (Ephesians 1.18). Amen.