But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Luke 6:27-30
These hard words of Jesus are essentially a call to a radical kind of generosity. Giving of ourselves beyond what’s considered the norm and giving without regard for who we give to. It is so easy to be generous to those we like and those we are loved by. It is not too difficult to give to the responsible and the upstanding, but our enemies? Those who hate us? And so the call here is to a new kind of generosity.
What’s so generous about giving what people deserve or have earned? What’s so generous about giving to those who give equally back to us?
None of what Jesus calls us to here is easy or natural, but I often wonder if it is the call to do good to those who hate us which can be the most difficult to put into practice. Loving our enemies is no walk in the park, but it feels more ambiguous—or at least I can convince myself it is. Blessing those who curse me can really test my limits, but still, it’s just words. And at least for me, speaking words, while ultimately difficult and humbling, can be far easier than putting my feet and hands to action and actually doing something good for one who despises me.
There is a pride factor—a desire to give back to people what they “deserve” as we’ve defined it. But again, these words of Jesus are a call to a new kind of radical generosity. To be a people who give love and kindness and blessing to all people—even our enemies.
Every time I encounter these words there is that voice of objection in my head that cries out about not becoming a doormat, not being taken advantage of by the world. It’s a valid fear, and I don’t believe for one second that Jesus lived this kind of life—being taken advantage of and being run over by a world bent on getting all it can out of everyone it can. Quite the contrary. Jesus wasn’t weak or mousy or taken advantage of. But at the same time he gave himself more generously than any other—giving his very life for a people who did not know him or care about him.
I think maybe the key is that this kind of radical generosity goes on the offensive. It takes the game to the enemy, to the hater. It isn’t a call to be so weak that we are taken advantage of and then just say, “Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t expect anything more. I can’t really fight back or stand up for myself.”
Instead, Jesus is calling us to pursue our enemies with radical, generous love. To give by choice before it’s taken. Give love, give blessing, give good. And then when the world does take, which it will, give more.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this call is too much for me. I’m not interested in living like this if left to myself. Jesus needs to shape my heart into one that loves this well. I’ll never do it on my own. So I am learning to want this, trusting that he is transforming my heart into one that could possible love this generously. And all the while thinking of just how much havoc the world is thrown into when exposed to these kinds of people who love this generously.