Christ continues his Sermon on the Mount by showing us his ethic in terms of how our relationships should look. We hear things like “Turn the other cheek”, “Give your cloak also”, and “Love your enemies”.
Loving your enemies? I don’t think we really understand what revolutionary thought this is if it is to be lived out in daily life. The very notion is against everything the world has tried to tell us since the fall of humanity. It is totally illogical. It is massively impractical. It just don’t make no sense.
And yet, Jesus starts this part of the sermon off understanding all of that. “You have heard it said… But I tell you…” He gets it. He has heard the lie. He understand the way of the world.
I often wish he didn’t understand. I wish I could point out in his life where he didn’t live up to this ethic that he is setting out before us. Unfortunately, he seems to put his money where his mouth is every time he is given the opportunity not to.
So does he really mean for us to live like this? Does he actually envision his church living out this crazy, weird, illogical ethic of loving its enemies? Again, surely this is just some lofty goal. Did Christ just not understand how bad our enemies are?
I mean, he had to throw in some exceptions to these verses. Give me just a moment and let me scan for those. Hmmmm… I can’t seem to see them but I’m sure they are there. Right? There has to be a way for me to rationalize my way out of having to live like this.
And it is here that a sense of dread comes over me as I have to ask myself what to do when our logic and feelings and reason comes into conflict with the life and teachings of Jesus.
I want there to be a rational explanation. I want there to be exceptions. But I just can’t find them.
He just doesn’t set forth any. And here is why or at least, why I think he doesn’t. We only have enemies when we have fear. We are afraid of them taking our property, our lives, our loved ones, our dignity. We think those things are ours and we must fight to protect them from those who would steal them. Except what is it that really belongs to us? All things belong to Christ. All things under heaven and earth have been given to him. And so if we do not own anything, even our lives, then we cannot have them stolen from us. And if we can’t have those things taken from us because they don’t belong to us, then we do not need to fear those who we think will take them. We no longer have to see them as our enemies. We no longer have to fear them.
This is not a diminishing of our brothers and sisters but a lifting up of our enemies. We are to love as Christ loved and Christ loved all. We are told to offer prayer for those who persecute you. This is something goes far beyond, “God, let them be better.” Prayer as a relationship and an intimate one at that. That is how our relationships should be even with those whom the world would have us be enemies.
These instructions given to his people, to his church, to his body. Instructions that show the world a new way of being. I way of being, an example to say that there is a different way to live life. One not based on fear.