“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “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 are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
There has never been a more radical person who ever walked upon this planet than Jesus. To follow him you either needed to have a few screws loose in your head, or absolute faith that he wasn’t a lunatic, himself, and his words were truly words of life. Why? Because the things that he said seemed utterly crazy. Consider this. At the beginning of the Sermon on the Plain he had told his listeners that the persecuted were blessed.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” He says we must be happy when we are persecuted! Seriously, now? Then, if that wasn’t enough, he tells us to love these people. He says we should do good to them, we should bless them, and we should pray for them! I mean, come on! Really?
Yeah, really! He’s telling us to do this and with good reason. We will be immensely blessed by God because by doing this we show that we are really his children because we have understood his love, and are willing to love others as he does. So, how do we do these things then? Well, let’s take them in turn. How do we do good to our enemies? When we find an opportunity to do something for them, perhaps help them with something they are struggling with, we do good to them.
How do we bless them? Whenever we think of the person who has caused, or is causing us pain, before the hatred starts to overwhelm you, let charity take over instead. Speak a blessing for them. When you are in company and their name comes up, instead of slandering them or complaining about them, say something nice about them, without getting that hint of sarcasm in.
How do we pray for them? If you have set times when you pray for people, pray for those who hurt you. The reason they do so is because in all probability they are hurting too, and you might have been the one to hurt them, perhaps inadvertently. I had someone send me a hateful message last week accusing me of something I had done 15 years ago. I hadn’t even been aware I had caused this person pain and I pray for healing.
Do this long enough and you will actually find yourself loving everybody. Just like God.