Matthew 5:38-48 (MSG) - Love Your Enemies
38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to 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 then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Talk about not pulling punches. This is one of those passages where you know it's what you need to hear and not what you want to hear.
I think we as Christians present a picture to others that we are entitled to act and talk to people in a certain way which can come across as if we are better than others. That if we feed the homeless once during the year then we have soothed our conscience and fulfilled the servant life quota. I feel we have gotten to a place where we feel entitled to judge someone or others; that we don’t even engage in opposing views and learn how to dialogue. That was never God’s intention and, when Jesus came to Earth, it certainly never entered his mind to be higher than anyone else. What good am I to anyone when I don’t live out my God-created identity?
Over the last couple of years, I have seen this apathetic faith.
I’ve seen the faith that prays ‘God, you’re so amazing ... but please don’t challenge or convict me.’
I’ve seen the self soothing faith emerge and I get angry and frustrated because nothing gets done when we live in either of these strands. Growth doesn’t happen and character doesn’t develop. We simply become stagnant. The self soothing faith makes us cling to the wonders of a shiny faith that brings no challenge. We become oblivious to the world around us and we don’t grow. We block out the voice of God when he challenges us and convicts us again and again.
We don’t grow and Jesus’ words then are relevant to us now: “If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that”. Entitled much? We expect a parade every time we do something good.
So what do we do? “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."
This is my favourite part because sometimes as Christians we think we are changing the world when all we’re doing is getting cosy in our bubble. When we continue to only engage with those who are like-minded and soothe one another’s egos then we become tragically inward. It becomes all we know. We need to grow up and get over ourselves. We need to stop thinking that we are the saviours of the world and start getting back to the work we are called to do. Sacrificial living, loving the unlovable, being honest with others and ourselves and, more importantly, living life out of our God created identities.
We are called to a higher standard but DO NOT ever think you are higher than anyone else. When you do, you have a lot further to fall from the pedestal. Let our lives reflect grace, generosity, mercy, justice, love and humility and when our lives don’t let us put our hands up and own it and be vulnerable. We will then experience grace and generosity, the way God lives toward us.
Susie Keegan is a creative, a font nerd, a graphic designer and the Church of Ireland Chaplain to Dublin Institute of Technology with 11 years experience in youth work. Use ‘Comic Sans’ in the wrong context and you’ll feel her wrath! Being an author on this blog has really pushed her comfort zone and she is very happy to be part of this community.