Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 6:27-28, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
How do we interpret this? Was this a piece of advice or wisdom? Or was it a command? Or was Jesus trying to show us plainly that this was an impossible task for people to follow through?
The challenge in the follow-through might depend on where people are at in their lives. Some people might be very hurt individuals. Their visceral reaction might be: “Screw this! I’m going to wipe them out! Quickly or slowly, nevertheless, painfully!”
Another’s reaction might be: “Well, I know it’s hard. I can try. I know I won’t be able to do this but what the heck. I’ll give it a shot and if I fail, I fail. If I can love that x!?@#%!?x#, then I’ll do it. If I try and fail, then what do I have to lose, maybe just eight bloody knuckles that’ll heal up in a few weeks.”
Often we are caught in a dichotomy of two impossible options. We know what Jesus said over 2,000 years ago. You might say, “But that was for yesterday. Today’s challenges are different.” Well, I beg to differ. There were huge challenges of life and death for early Christians during the Roman Empire– perhaps even impossible challenges to resist the Emperor.
Even today, anger and hatred still boils in the blood of survivors. Every generation has its own challenges to love one’s enemies. The halocaust of Jews during Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The militaristic Japanese take-over of Asia. Today’s violent Islamic terrorism of ISIS/ISIL against the non-Muslim world.
We know if we fail this impossible command to love our enemies, it just shows how human we are. We will have to acknowledge our need for God’s grace.
We also know that if we can manage this, good on me. “I managed to not swear and flip the finger back on someone who called me a !x%$&*. I simply ignored him. That made me the better person.” In this latter case, our need for God’s grace is decreased. We managed to fulfill the law of love. Okay, that may have been easily accomplished.
But then what about next time? What if a bully were to come after you with a gang of thugs to pulverize you to smithereens? Do I continue to “turn the other cheek” and “give them my other coat”? Where do we draw the line?
More difficult yet. What if the victim were your own son or daughter this time around? Yes, this makes it an impossible task to “turn the other cheek” and give the gang of rapists and child-molesters your own daughter or son for the taking.
Let’s make it harder…they’ve got a gun to your head. There are no police around anywhere. You’re in an isolated place.
If possible, most people would be tempted to pull out defensive arms and use it accordingly…without hesitation.
Getting the picture? Seems to me, Jesus saying depends upon the context.
Now then… was Jesus’ saying in Luke 6:27-38 meant to be a word of advice or a command?
I’m of the opinion that Jesus’ saying was meant to be description of our human sinfulness versus a prescription to obey God’s commands. It’s possible that the entirety of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was meant to be a description of our human incapacity to be perfect human beings.
If this were the case, it forces us to fall upon God for mercy and grace.
If Jesus’ sayings from the Sermon on the Mount were prescriptions (i.e., as laws we are to obey), then we’d all be failures.
I’m of the opinion that we will all inevitably fail as good human beings. Thus, the consequence is that we will all die and end up in dire straits on the Last Day, separated from God, perhaps eternally.
Thankfully, that is not the ultimate destiny. God has given us a way out. The only way out of this predicament is to fall upon the mercy and grace of God. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.