"To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. I f someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
"Here is a simply rule of thumb for behavior: ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them ! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. I you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that's charity? the stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
"I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never--I promise--regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don't condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back--given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity."
1. From Walter Wink's book, Engaging the Powers,
"Instead of holiness as separation, continues Borg [Conflict, Holiness and Politics] Jesus offered an economy of mercy that extends to all, especially the outsiders, including Israel's enemies. The command to love enemies--which would have indicated Romans above all--points beyond the exclusiveness of the holiness code to a kindness and compassion which is all-encompassing and unlimited. Like the father watching for the prodigal's return, so God receives with joy even the most hardened sinner (Luke 14:11-32). God searches for those who have lost their way as a woman does for a misplaced coin (Luke 15:8-10). This strange God loves enemies, the ungrateful and the selfish, the good and the evil, the just and the unjust, in an all-inclusive embrace (Matthew 5:43-48//Luke 6:27-28, 32-36).
"The laws of clean and unclean were premised on the holiness of God: 'Be holy, for I am holy' (Leviticus 11:44). Consequently, Jesus, by abrogating the laws of purity, was announcing a new image of God: a God not concerned with cleanliness, who loves precisely the marginalized and rejected, whose tender womb aches for the uninvited and the unloved: a compassionate parent, transcending gender, the Mother and Father of us all."
2. The only way this section ought to be read is quite slowly, letting it sink in, drop by drop, phrase by phrase. As we neither rush toward these words nor push them away, in the quiet, an image will eventually come forward to show us what happens within us as we love our enemy. Don't be surprised if a part of what is shown you is Jesus' third-way of active non-violence.
3. This year we do not get to the kicker in all this because the last Sunday of Epiphany or Transfiguration Sunday enters to keep us away from Luke 6:46. It probably needs to be appended here. -- "Why are you so polite with me, always saying, 'Yes, sir,' and "That's right, sir,' but never doing a thing I tell you?" or "Why do you keep on saying that I am your Lord, when you refuse to do what I say?"
These great injunctions, without implementation, are less than helpful.
Sure, they are difficult. So what? We are called to this way of living, whether difficult or not!
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