Jesus says these words as part of the “Sermon on the Plain” found in Luke 6:27-38. Last week we learned that Jesus is teaching on a level place, a sign of solidarity and relationship with the crowd.
Imagine the crowd’s response. Do you think it got really quiet? Or maybe rumblings and murmuring began. Their enemies were the Roman occupiers. They were living with persecution, hardship and injustice.
Now consider your own response to Jesus’ command. Utter shock? Fear? Or maybe defensiveness because you are right and never going to connect with the ones who are wrong! Think of the people “not like you” that Jesus is telling you to love.
Our gut response to threat or enemies or even those just different than us is to fight or run away. Jesus is preaching a different way. Notice how Jesus “stood with” those on the outside. Notice how Jesus continued in relationship with those who despised him?
We have received grace and unconditional love from Jesus. Can we stand our ground with love in the face of anger or injustice? Jesus shows a way of non-violent response that nurtures relationship—even in the face of hatred.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.–Martin Luther King Jr.in Strength to Love
I’m reminded of two fighting siblings who were punished by having to hold hands with each other for 5 minutes. Maybe coming together reconnects them. Maybe it starts a conversation. Or maybe it is just a ground rule that teaches respect for the other.
Today the stakes run higher than two fighting children. We live in a highly polarized and anxious time. We disagree with each other about so many things. But Jesus tells us to stay connected. Talk about the things that matter. Choose the way of love. Pray for each other. Recognize each other’s humanity. To be reconciled is to seek the Light at the heart of the other.
I close with these wise words from Henri Nouwen: “One way to pray in a fear-filled world is to choose love over anxiety.”