27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who [a]mistreat you.
But love your enemies, and do good, ...
What he’s saying is take everything that you hold dear, and let it go. Jesus did. Did he have wealth? No. Did he have comfort? No. Was he in an official position of power? No. Did he have fame? He had fame, and then he had all of that fame turned toward venom. The same crowds who shouted, “Hosanna, Hosanna” shouted, “crucify him, crucify him,” so fame could be fleeting as well. And so Jesus is saying that the kingdom ethic is love, to love your enemies.
Who are your enemies? Don’t let this live in an ethereal, ideological, philosophical world. Right now in your mind, see the face of your enemy, the person who has done you the most harm, the most damage, the most evil, the most injustice, has caused the most grief, the most stress, the most anguish, the most strife, and Jesus says love.
Secondly, do good to those who hate you. He says, “It’s easy to do good to those who do good to you, do those who hate you.” Who hates you? Who really dislikes you? Who really despises you? Perhaps even who has disowned you, who has disregarded you? What he says is do good to them. Be kind to them, acts of grace, and mercy, and kindness. Don’t return evil for evil, the Scripture says elsewhere.
Number three: he says to bless those who curse you. How difficult is it when someone curses you, they speak evil against you, they attack you with their words, they malign your character, they gossip about you, rumor mongering, half truths and lies. The tendency is to throw more logs on the fire, Proverbs would say, and stoke it into a great inferno. That’s where James says that the tongue sets ablaze a mighty fire, and what he says is put water on that fire, not another log. No more reviling or gossip or anger or bitterness. Don’t return negative comment for negative comment, or negative blog for negative blog, or criticism for criticism; bless, bless, bless. And I want you to see this, friends, the most painful parts of life are the most glorious opportunities to live out the kingdom ethics. And so for the Christian what can often happen is when we find ourselves in these circumstances, we can ask God, “Why am I being persecuted, why am I poor? Why am I hungry, why am I hurting, why am I suffering, why am I opposed, why am I struggling?” And the Father would say, “Blessed are you. That’s a blessing. I’m giving you an opportunity to experience a bit of what Jesus did. I’m giving you an opportunity to become a little more like Jesus is, and I’m giving you an opportunity to show others a little bit of who Jesus is.” It’s an opportunity.
Every situation really comes down to your view of God. If you believe God is a God of woe, and he’s always judging you, and he’s always angry at you, and he’s always cursing you, and he’s always consequenting you, then when tragedy, strife, grief, poverty, and pain come, you’re angry at God, you’re frustrated, you run from God, you’re depressed, you’re despairing. And if you believe Jesus’ words, “Blessed are you,” you rejoice in all circumstances, and you look for the opportunity to practice the kingdom ethic, and to become a better kingdom citizen.
Whew! Tough stuff. Two little verses, four little phrases, and they are absolutely some of the most difficult things to follow through on.
These verses have been running through my head this week, so I'm just going to share them here at the end, because they do accompany today's verses nicely, I think:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (emphasis mine)
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 6:29-30.