Deborah Beach Giordano
© February 27, 2019
Love your enemies.
Do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you.
Pray for those who revile you.
If someone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other one, too.
If someone takes your coat, give him your shirt, as well.
Give to everyone who asks and, whatever they take, don’t demand its return.
As you want to be treated, treat others.
It’s That Simple
With these few words Jesus tells us how we are to live as His followers. There are no elaborate procedures or exotic rituals, no arcane laws or complex legal codes, no special initiations or secret handshakes; just a few simple rules, given in plain, straightforward language.
The sentences are composed of basic verbs that even a child can understand: love, do good, bless, pray, turn away from anger, give. And treat others the way you want to be treated.
It’s that simple.
No conditions, no exceptions, no exclusions.
But, what about….??
These simple, clear-cut, uncomplicated instructions describe how we are to behave as Christ’s disciples; as living embodiments of His teachings in this world. That’s it. End of story.
Except for the fact that we humans have been endowed with great intelligence, cleverness, cunning — and a fierce determination to have our own way. So, for the last two thousand years we’ve searched diligently for work-arounds to avoid doing what our Lord Jesus told us to do.
In the interim we’ve managed to find lots of ways to justify our unwillingness to follow Christ’s teachings. We’ve devised special circumstances, imposed restrictions, created vast categories of “exceptions” to the Lord’s clearly-defined rules. Basically, we’ve convinced ourselves that we only have to engage in Christian conduct when it suits us: when it aligns with our personal preferences and prejudices.
But woe unto those who disagree with our opinions, who hold other beliefs, have opposing views or live in other regions. Those “others” are not deserving of our compassion or care; we haughtily and heartily despise them, ignore their hurts, scorn their concerns, and refuse to engage with them. Words like love, do good, bless, pray, be generous, and turn away from anger are not in our vocabulary — not where “they” are concerned.
“Treat others the way you want to be treated”? Surely that only applies to decent people, the people we like, not just anybody and everybody — we can’t possibly be expected to extend that to those we consider loathsome. And as far as loving our enemies or doing good for them? Well, that’s just not going to happen. They’re beyond redemption; utterly in the wrong, nothing to do with us. Besides, we need to keep our distance; we don’t want to risk contamination. Ewww; they’re just nasty.
Really, there’s no way that what Jesus said can possibly apply to our time and situation; we’re different. We’re good, just the way we are, so there’s nothing more to be done.
Hold on a moment. I think I hear a rooster crowing.
Once More, with Feeling
Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good, and lend without regret; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High who is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.”
~ Luke 6:35-38
It isn’t up to us to determine the suitability of others: whether they “deserve” our respect or consideration; we are to conduct ourselves as true children of God, as faithful followers of the Lord Christ, with malice toward none and compassion toward all. To condemn is to write another off as of no value; to deny not merely that person — but the One who made him. We have neither the right — nor the ability — to judge the heart of another.
We are called to compassion and to communion: if we are to be God’s own children, we will acknowledge our differences and seek our commonality. We are none of us so very different from one another: we are more alike than we are willing to admit. Our fascination with our “unique” character leads us into the temptation to believe that we are “special,” in a way that translates to “better than,” our sisters and brothers. We grow stubborn, spiteful, self-infatuated, deluded; our way becomes the only way — and we forget that it is the Lord Christ’s Way that we have been called to follow.
“If your heart is as my heart, take my hand.” ~ John Wesley
All Christians need not observe the same rituals or traditions, say the same prayers, or sing from the same hymnals, but — for the love of God! — we must be compassionate to one another. This has nothing to do with corporate unity or organizational politics: all human constructions are as summer grass that withers and is swept away; nor is it a balm to soothe our weary souls (though it may, indeed, serve that purpose), it is a sacrament. To love one another — those we consider our “enemies” as well as our friends — is a praise-offering to the Beloved, acknowledging the grace and beauty and holy potential inherent in every human being.
Simple — Not Easy
Love, do good, bless, pray, turn away from anger, give generously, treat others the way you want to be treated, be compassionate. A very simple set of instructions … that are very difficult to follow.
It’s so much easier to snipe and snarl and despise and condemn — and it makes us feel so superior that we hardly notice that it poisons our souls with cynicism and despair. The venom clouds our thinking, and we forget what Ultimately Matters; we forget who we are and Whose we are.
Following the Lord Jesus is simple, but not easy. It requires daily, hourly — sometimes minute to minute — effort to be compassionate, gracious, thankful, and kind. It is a glorious calling, and truly a very demanding one: a genuine work of carrying forth the Good News of God’s abundant grace and unfailing love.
May the divine Advocate inspire and empower all of us to accomplish the holy work we have been called to do.
Christ’s peace and healing love be with you,
Suggested Spiritual Exercise
Love, do good, bless, pray, turn away from anger, give generously, and treat others the way you want to be treated.