“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."
Wow. Jesus has been teaching some difficult stuff, but now it just got a little harder. Love your enemies? Do good for those who hate you. Bless those who curse you? Pray for those who mistreat you? My goodness. This is really hard stuff to swallow. Let's stop and put this in a context that means something to you today.
Who is your enemy? Who hates you? Who curses you? Who mistreats you? The first thing that pops to mind are those whom we call terrorists. They hate everything our nation stands for. Freedom. Democracy. Equality. Rights. They see us as infidels. They see me as an infidel. If I were in their country and in their midst, they would try to kill me. This is my enemy. Yet, Jesus is saying I should love them. He says I should do good for these who hate me. He says that I should pray a blessing for them. What blessing should I pray for these? Now, some of you are getting angry at me. You may be thinking, surely Jesus did not mean for this to apply to them. Look at the Scripture. Show me where Jesus says "except" or "unless." He doesn't.
He says if someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other so they can slap it too. He says to give to those who ask you. He says if someone steals from you to not ask for it back. He tells us to treat others how we would want to be treated. This is hard too, but you know, all the things that we have are not important. People are important. Their need must be great if they are driven to steal. Take heart. Thieves cannot steal Christ from you, but you can give Christ to any and all who ask.
“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.
Wow. If we are only good to those who are good to us, we are no better than the sinners. If we love only those who love us, we are no better than the sinners. Ugh. This is painful for me because I feel so horribly convicted. We are supposed to do good for those who hate us too. We are supposed to love those who hate us. We are supposed to give and not expect to be repaid.
Why? Why is Jesus asking so much of us?
Jesus expects this from us because he has done this for us. If we are to be children of the Father, this is what is expected of us. God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. He is merciful to us, and we are certainly not worthy of anything He has. There is nothing we have done, are doing, or could ever do that would merit the favor of God. It's God's grace. That's why we should love not just each other, but our enemies too.