“Do not resist the one who is evil.”
“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Of all the words of the Bible, these commands Jesus gave to his disciples on the mountain are some of the most challenging. My life is quite comfortable and easy, not often like this life Jesus requires of his disciples.
So I look for an out… Who can do these things? Am I to take these commands literally? Is it truly loving to allow someone to hurt me? What if that beggar spends my money on drugs or booze? Am I to be a doormat? Didn’t Jesus walk through the crowd and escape their murderous plans?
I justify my selfish life with logical answers to these questions, but there is still a nagging uncertainty. So with the humility that seems to inexorably accompany age, I am a bit more open to hear God’s heart on the matter, and I’m learning a few things…
First, Jesus is revealing what God is like in these words. God does not require of us what he is unwilling to do. God does indeed love his enemies; he loves us even before we acknowledge his very existence. He has patiently borne and suffered and given to evil men far beyond what I could imagine doing for one I loved, let alone one who hated me. Yes, Jesus evaded a few plots when it was not yet the time, but ultimately he yielded willingly to persecution and death. In calling his followers to become perfect “as your heavenly Father is perfect” he makes clear what his Father is like. He requires us first to embrace his priorities and to receive, enjoy, and admire his Father’s great and unconditional love.
Second, Jesus really is calling me to be like him, to be a true son of my Father who is in heaven. His priorities are clearly different than mine, and it is for me to change my mind, not him. I must no longer try to justify my life, but surrender my defenses, humbly face my selfishness, and come to him to replace it with his love. Thank God that he loves his enemies! There is mercy and patience even for me! I can be sure that he will faithfully work his sweet mercy into my heart and make it more after his own with each passing year. I will refuse pointless guilt and shame, and instead hunger for more of his Spirit in me, more of his life and love flowing through me.
His impossible commands have become for me a precious promise, that I can be kind as he is kind.