Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. Luke 6:27-38
Many will find this Sunday’s readings a challenge. Love your enemies? The text comes from Luks’s sermon on the mount. Sometimes text like these have been handed down and formulated in ways that appear like a list of ‘dos and don’ts’.
However the sermon that Jesus gives us in Lukes gospel is a list of a different sort. Much of this homily leaves open the question of what I must do. Love your enemies. How? The gospel doesn’t say. Do good to those who hate you. What? The gospel doesn’t say. The exact response is left to us.
The gospel instead forces us to reflect on what love, forgiveness, judgement and condemnation really mean. The decision to love only becomes a reality when we are faced with our enemy. I don’t have to decide to love someone who loves me and showers me with good things. Forgiveness only becomes a reality when I am faced with the unforgivable act. When your partner betrays you; when your boss deceives or undermines you; when your friends are silent in your biggest time of need. What is the point in forgiving the things I can live with and excuse easily? Compassion only becomes a reality when I am confronted with that which I cannot suffer alongside or empathise with or understand. This is a sermon that cuts much deeper than a list.
It does not tell us who to vote for, what position to take on war, what to do or say to my neighbour today. Instead the gospel asks us to look at each person from the viewpoint of the creator God who is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked as well as the good. The on who lets the rain fall on the good and bad alike.
Where does that leave us today? The beginning of conversion, of changing our hearts and minds, to conform with the heart and mind of God is to stop and consider the other as precisely that -the other. More deeply human than a list of prohibitions and exhortations this gospel is a call to stop and look at the face of the other; even the one I call enemy. To see in that face of the other, God’s creation and to consider what my response will be. Let’s pray this week for a pause between our immediate encounter with the other and our action. Sometimes our immediate response is in need of gospel redemption.