In the gospel of this 7th Sunday in Ordinary Times (Luke 6:27-34), Jesus says, “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you”. What a radical injunction to give! How do you love someone who has hurt you, lied against them, negatively gossiped about you, hates you with passion and ignominy? That goes against every natural instinct in our body. At the time of Jesus, payback was the norm: “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” and that is no different from how we feel about things today. It is the natural, human, and impulsive response to hurt. Yet, when Martin Luther King, Jr’s house was burnt down, people called for revenge but he had this to say: “When you live by the rule, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’, you end up with a nation of blind and toothless people.” What an insight! Michelle Obama had it right when she said, “When they go low, we go higher”.
You see, loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us is a way of preventing us from acting out of our own hurts and impulsive dispositions. It prevents us from engaging in a never-ending tragic cycle of revenge and retaliation that does nothing but escalate and cause further harm. It is an invitation to live by a higher standard that transcends the human tendency for retribution; an invitation to break the cycle of revenge and retaliation. The truth is that someone has to take the first step and model a behavior that sets the stage for peace and harmony in human relations and that person is us. We know that force begets force, and that hate begets hate, and that unforgiveness begets unforgiveness and this way of being only leads to a road of descending spiral that ultimately ends in further discontent, if not ultimate destruction.
On the other, Christ, by this injunction challenges the human appetite for revenge, retaliation, and retribution and replaces it with a behavior that is based on the spiritual promise that the judgment you give is the judgment you will receive; that what you posit into experience will come back to you as experience; that what you sow is what you will reap. So, we don’t forgive because we are altruistic; we forgive because we know we need forgiveness. We don’t bless because we are good people; we bless because we know we need blessings in our lives; we don’t show mercy because we are holy, we show mercy because we know we need God’s mercy shown upon us; we don’t judge because we need to first of all remove the log in our eyes before we can see the peg in another person’s eyes.
The question for all of us is this: which rule would you want to follow? May God give us the grace to follow the rule of Christ Jesus! Amen.