Have you ever experienced the following? You have an encounter with someone that does not go well. Later, you run it through your mind. While doing so, you come up with all sorts of clever, snappy comebacks. I have spent hours obsessing this way. Does Jesus want us to spend all our mental time and energy trying to retaliate?
Matthew 5:39-47 (CSB)
39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?
Some things in our world are obvious. You don’t have to look far to see that humans are terribly flawed. Evil is all around us. We do not, however, need to look outside ourselves. It is only necessary to look inside our own hearts. We all are victims of the behaviors and attitudes of others. We are victims of insult, theft, coercion, and persecution. Jesus addresses the manner in which we are to respond. The kingdom of heaven has a different value system. We are to love our enemies. We hear this so often, we are no longer shocked by the words. But, stop and think about it. We are to LOVE our enemies. What? You want me to love my enemy? It is much easier to reconcile ourselves to the theology than it is to let these words wash over us. We are to be changed. We are to do more than understand, we are to be different and as a result, behave differently.
How do we love our enemy? According to this passage, we are to give more than is asked. If someone slaps, sues, or forces us we are to accept that behavior and to give even more. We are to accept a second slap, give more than asked, and go further than required. I do not even know how to reconcile this to life. Does it mean that everything about my life can be hijacked? I don’t know. But I do know that it requires us to treat people differently. At the very least we are not to respond to others, in the same manner, they treat us. We don’t get to respond in offense, anger, and attack. Instead, we are to love and pray for our enemies. This is what God’s children do. God’s children model themselves after their father.
Who in your life to you need to love and pray for rather than hate?
I confess that I rarely respond to those who mistreat me with love. I do not pray for them. Forgive me. Today, remove that anger and hate in my heart for ________ and instead, change my heart. Fill me with Your love and let Your love overflow from my heart to those who have opposed me. I pray that You would bless this person and bring about in his/her life that things needed both physical and spiritual flourishing.