But 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 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 God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful as God is merciful.
In his book, What Jesus Meant, Gary Wills writes that this quote from Luke indicates that Jesus had a lifelong commitment to nonviolence. “More than any other teacher of nonviolence,” Wills writes, “Jesus was absolute and inclusive in what he forbade.” Critics of this statement like to quote from the story of Jesus driving the moneychangers from the temple. We all know, however, that scraps from the Scriptures can be used to support almost any opinion. Besides, the moneychangers’ story describes only one incident in Jesus' life; the reading from Luke describes a lifelong commitment.
If we live with a commitment to nonviolence, Jesus tells us, there will be repercussions. We may not have both cheeks slapped, have our coats stolen, or be cursed by those who don’t like what we’re saying. In the 21st century, the reactions may seem different, but essentially they are the same. We will be labeled as liberals, unpatriotic, or simply naïve. Neighbors may turn against us and write us off as hopeless dreamers who need to "get real." Even worse, we may simply be ignored: Cassandras warning an unheeding people about evils to come.
Yet as we look around us we see so many wrongs that need righting. Sometimes it’s hard to know which ones to tackle first. Here are three especially troubling paradoxes:
* A government that claims to be exporting democracy abroad while supporting a plutocracy at home
* A government that excludes immigrants, knowing that we are a nation of immigrants
* A government that approved a national budget that gives “tax breaks” to the rich while raising the cost of student loans and cutting Medicaid benefits
Each day as we face these enormous challenges to our commitment to peace, let us remember the words of Jesus in Luke’s gospel. They are simple but sublime. We can love our enemies; we can pray for those who disagree with us; we can do good to those most in need of our help. May the words of Jesus, “Be merciful as God is merciful,” give us the courage to continue our search for justice and peace.
Let us pray: Gracious God, you showed us how to love one another and how to replace evil with good. Be with us as we seek to fulfill your command to live peaceful and just lives.