Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For 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 do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
The challenge for true discipleship of Christ
As Christians, we are expected to treat others well or avoid hurting them. We respect and do good to others. It seems easy enough from our perspective. But what if we are the “beneficiaries” of evil deeds by others or are the object of their persecution and violence?
It is rather “easy” to be Christian until violence or evil is done to us. The Gospel, however, challenges us at the very root of our understanding of what it means to be Jesus’ followers. Jesus commands, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” We are to lend without expecting payment; if struck on the cheek, we are to offer the other.
Why are we not permitted to hate those who hate us, expect payment from those who have borrowed from us, and retaliate when harm is done to us? Because the Father is like that, Jesus says. God is good to everyone, good and bad alike. God is merciful to all, kind and merciless alike. We are to act against our natural wishes and imitate our divine and loving Father in heaven.
Jesus says that if we love only those who love us, lend only to those who can repay us, or take revenge on those who hurt us, we are no better than unbelievers who do the same. Jesus expects us to act differently or in accord with who we are: children of God who are loved despite our unfaithfulness and wrongdoing. We Christians are to live as children of light.
This is the heart of Christianity: to love even when we are hated, as Jesus has shown us. Admittedly this is very difficult for most of us, especially when we are wronged gravely and we have done nothing to cause it. But as our hearts are conformed more and more to Christ’s, this way of behaving will no longer be impossible. And so we beg for this grace to be conformed to the heart of Jesus.
Do we have enemies whom we find very hard to forgive? Are our hearts open to receive God’s grace so we can eventually forgive and love them?
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2019,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.