The Gospel Reading for Sunday continues the Sermon on the Plain which we heard last week.
In that passage (Luke 6:17, 20-26), we heard Jesus exhort us to develop an attitude of trust toward God in our circumstances. He now moves from talking about our attitude in our circumstances to our attitude and actions toward other people (Luke 6:27-38 -this week’s passage).
Jesus calls us to love – a particular form of love, agape; the Greek verb agapao means, to love unconditionally.
Whether we are interacting with friends or enemies, our attitude, from which our actions follow, should be one of love. None of us have a problem loving the friends and family members we get along with; it’s loving the enemy that challenges us.
Our enemies are those who purposefully and knowingly seek our ill-will. They have bitterness and hatred in their hearts against us. They do not seek our good, but only what is evil. It is these people we are to love. Loving our enemies goes contrary to what feels right or normal. But it is precisely these people that Jesus focuses on in Sunday’s Gospel.
It doesn’t mean we support them in what they do, or agree with them, or even necessarily become good friends with them. Loving our enemies means that when they hate us, we love them in return. It means that the cycle of hate, the cycle of revenge, the cycle of retaliation, stops with us.
As always, Jesus is our best example of how to live out such a principle. He never asks us to do what He has not already done Himself. And if what Jesus asks seems too much for us, we are beginning to understand that our response will depend not on ourselves alone but on the grace that comes from God.
The examples which Jesus provide to illustrate the word “love” are not directed at feelings but at actions. He gives us things to do to help generate love.
With the principle of agape love and the six examples, Jesus clearly establishes that we, as his disciples, are not to allow people of lesser principles set the agenda. We are not to wait to see what the other person will do before we decide what we will do. Nor are we to be trapped in a vicious cycle that someone else starts. Instead, we are to seize the initiative by loving, doing good, blessing, and praying. These behaviors might seem weak in the face of hatred and violence, but Jesus transforms them. He demonstrated, on the cross, how powerful they can be. From the cross, he did not curse his enemies; He prayed for their forgiveness.
Jesus anchors this section with the command we know of as, the Golden Rule (v. 31), “And as you wish that men would to do to you, do so to them”, and adds, “For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (v.38).
May the word of God rule our lives!