Jesus said, "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 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 to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:27-30
This week's gospel reading is a continuation of Jesus' Sermon on the Plain. He calls us to love our enemies, to give all that we have without expecting something in return. We bristle when we hear these words, or read quickly past these sentences, thinking they must be for someone else, as the message feels impossible, maybe even harmful. I struggle with this passage too. The way I have come to understand it is that Jesus' words can be understood as "descriptive" rather than "prescriptive." What if rather than a list of seemingly impossible "shoulds," Jesus is describing the fruits of real love? The ways we are freed to show love and mercy, patience and kindness even to our enemies when WE know ourselves to be loved, and forgiven, the recipients of God's mercy and grace?
In the past two years, you have probably had the opportunity to witness someone losing their head...in public...perhaps doing something rude or insensitive, even cruel. The pressures and stresses of the pandemic have uncovered "not our best selves" on more than one occasion. The media fuels the divisions we feel from one another around vaccines, masking, and the whole mess. What I see in this part of Jesus' Sermon on the Plain is an invitation to know ourselves as beloved in God's eyes, and to know those we may view as "enemies" also as beloved. When we stand in that place of knowing that God will be the judge; we are enfolded in God's mercy, as is the person we are bumping up against. We do not have to agree with others, even spend time with them, or certainly put up with abuse. Jesus does not condone that nor wish anyone harm. The invitation in Jesus' words, as I see it, is to inhabit the true country where we live as baptized Christians, as the Body of Christ gathered in faith. In that country, we respect the dignity of every human being, know ourselves and each other to be loved and forgiven by our Creator. Love from God for us and for our neighbor, bears fruit in patience, forgiveness, generosity of spirit and resources, prayers and healing.
The video above provides a musical perspective as well. May we ponder the mystery of God's mercy and love together, and be bearers of love, the fruit of our belovedness.