You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Most of us like to help people in need, especially a family member or a friend from church who we know is facing a tough moment. We like to be generous and kind. It makes us feel good inside to do something good. That’s why we like these words that Jesus spoke. On the surface, we like the idea of loving our neighbors and giving to someone in need, and we even feel noble when we get to turn the other cheek. Be careful, though, about digging deeper into Jesus’ words. Are we really ready to love people who actively oppose us? Are we really happy to settle a dispute by giving the other person more than they wanted in the first place? Do we really feel good inside to see God bless the unrighteous?
Jesus asks a lot of us. He sets the standard for how we are supposed to behave and treat others so high that the only word sufficient for it is “perfect.” Anything less than perfection is falling short. So, it’s not enough to love those who love us or to be generous only to our friends and families. No, Jesus asks us to love those who oppose us and go the extra mile in service to anyone in need.
We see opportunities everywhere to live out Jesus’ words. There are people in need all around us, and there are demanding, hard-to-love people around every corner. Faithfully and joyfully following Jesus by loving difficult people is how we shine light into darkness, how we bring salt to a flavorless, dying world. When we choose to love in ways that don’t come naturally, we show others who Jesus is and how much He has changed our hearts.
Thank You, Father, for sending Jesus to show me the way of love. Forgive me for only loving some people, some of the time. Help me to go the extra mile to care for those You call me to love, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian