“Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you.” This of course does not mean that we feel the same strength of passion and commitment for our enemies as we do to our spouse, for instance. At its core, love is an act of the will that regards the well-being and welfare of the other above yourself, and a willingness to sacrifice to serve them. Jesus is saying that we are to treat all people this way, regardless of whether we like them or not. We see in his example of his life that he did exactly this. He never put anyone down. His harsh words for the Pharisees were motivated by a desire to see them come to the truth. In the garden he healed the ear of one of the men who came to arrest him. On the cross he asked forgiveness for those crucifying him. His consistency is remarkable.

 

What is being asked of us is no less. Ultimately everyone is loveable. Adolph Hitler had his Eva Braun. Gang leaders have women who love them. But Christ is not even talking about those kinds of feelings. He’s talking about consideration of the other’s well-being, and that is something we owe to any human—even those who hate us.

“Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
 
Even though this is general advice for all believers, the specific context is about being mistreated for righteousness’ sake. So the point is not to let anyone roll over you like a truck, or to be a doormat or a wussy; instead, the point is to understand that when people curse you or mistreat you, that kind of action is motivated by spiritual shallowness, spiritual blindness, or spiritual hostility, and you don’t have to take it personally. Jesus is saying, frankly, not to take it personally, but to pray for such people. We can receive their cursing and mistreatment with a smile on our faces because we understand both its source and its motive and we understand that it’s not us directly they curse, but our religious convictions and commitments. They think we’re idiots at best and dangerous at worst. But we know they are just blind to the truth, so we can bless them as people and pray for them. It’s pretty unique behavior for humans.

 

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” 

This follows the same line of teaching as the previous verse. Their hostility is motivated by spiritual blindness that results in spiritual oppression. We are not to take it personally. Therefore when they don’t just curse us, but actually lash out and strike us or take our possessions, we can turn the other cheek. It’s our religious convictions and commitments that drive them against us, not a personal vendetta, so we can take it all in stride.

Verse 35 is somewhat of a summary statement of the passage. We are not like other people, in our core, in our attitudes, in our values, or our behavior. We are the reverse—the upside down—of all things natural. Those who are in the Spirit live in the rhythm of the Spirit. We do the unexpected, not for the sake of novelty, but because we understand the true nature of things and live in the corrected reality. Our attitudes and actions almost sound like oxymorons: love enemies, and loan as a gift.

The point is this: the values of this world (protection, accumulation, pride, equality, and control) are not the values of the Most High, and there are not the values of the true reality. The values of the true reality are:

1.     Love that reconciles to God and oneself, regardless of the self-sacrifice required to attain it.

2.     Serving others to do whatever it takes to bring about a society of righteousness, justice, and peace rather than one characterized by power, control, and accumulation.

3.     Living the recognition and reality (we call it faith) that God, and not us, is the reference point for all of life. He is the source and end, the means and the goal, and the hidden Grand Player in all that is.

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