There is no question that walking in the way of Jesus can be extraordinarily difficult, especially in extraordinarily divided and volatile times. Look again at the instructions Jesus gives in Luke 6:29-30 and Mt. 5:38-42 and you will see that it is extremely challenging sometimes. At the very least, we move in the opposite direction of cultural and internal instincts to retaliate, seek revenge, go toe to toe, and blow for blow with physical or verbal violence. While everything in us tells us to hurt as we’ve been hurt, Jesus says we are not an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth kind of people. In a calm, creative, non-violent, but dignified and empowering response, we “turn the other cheek” and “give the inner garment.” (For more ideas about the meaning of these often misunderstood instructions, click on the link to my sermon as I share from the insightful work of scholar Walter Wink).
Instead of violent retaliation, Jesus advocates for love (Luke 6:27, 32). It’s not the easy “love those who love you,” kind. Where is the credit in that, Jesus asks? Anyone can and just about everyone does engage in that kind of love. That is the participation ribbon of love. No, this is love of enemies, adversaries, and opponents.
And it’s more than empty words. This is love in action to everyone. Only treating with kindness and respect those who do the same for you is the participation ribbon of good deeds. Everyone does that. This is doing good when people hate us. Blessing when people curse us. Praying when people mistreat us.
Why? Because it’s not about who they are. It’s about who you are no matter what. It’s not about what they have done. It’s about doing to others what you want them to do to you (6:31). Our mercy does not rise or fall on the waves of other’s actions but on the immovable mercy of God (6:36).
As Christians who are looking to make a change, we can’t do it in the name of Jesus if we don’t do it in the way of Jesus. Darkness cannot be defeated by darkness. It takes light. Violence is not overcome with violence. It takes peace. Lies are not combatted with more lies. It takes truth. Hate is not eradicated with hate. It takes love. We can’t scream, shout, shove, slap, strike, or shoot our way into a better world. We serve. We share. We sacrifice in the way of Jesus. We do to others as we would have them do to us. We are merciful, because God is merciful. We love all people at all times, because God is love.