Love for Enemies
(Matthew 5.38-48; 7.12a)
27This is what I say to all who will listen to me:
Love your enemies, and be good to everyone who hates you. 28Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you. 29If someone slaps you on one cheek, don't stop that person from slapping you on the other cheek. If someone wants to take your coat, don't try to keep back your shirt. 30Give to everyone who asks and don't ask people to return what they have taken from you. 31 Treat others just as you want to be treated.
32If you love only someone who loves you, will God praise you for that? Even sinners love people who love them. 33If you are kind only to someone who is kind to you, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners are kind to people who are kind to them. 34If you lend money only to someone you think will pay you back, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners lend to sinners because they think they will get it all back.
35 But love your enemies and be good to them. Lend without expecting to be paid back. Then you will get a great reward, and you will be the true children of God in heaven. He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel. 36Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you.
Lord, have mercy.
In my experience he does – plenty of it, which is a very good thing for us. The question is whether we will have mercy for anyone else. Having received mercy, can we find it in our heart to extend mercy?
Mercy is getting better than what we have coming. As Jesus says, when you repay money you have been lent, no mercy is required. When you show love to someone who has shown you love – no special marks for mercy will apply.
But when you go a second mile beyond what is required of you – when you give beyond your debt – when you bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you, now you are showing mercy – now you are acting like a kingdom citizen.
Mercy is the currency of the kingdom. When Jesus (in this same sermon) taught us to pray that God’s kingdom would come “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:9), he was encouraging us to live in ways consistent with the kingdom – to begin to act today like we will act in the context of the kingdom. We will be rich in mercy when we come into the kingdom. So what would it look like for us to live as mercifully today as we will one day?
It will mean that we will not grasp tightly to the stuff we have on earth. It means that we will be generous, making allowances for others, and not taking offense when we have been pushed beyond the normal boundaries. It will mean resting easier in the knowledge that the God who is rich in mercy will have the last say. It will make us easier to live with, and life easier to live.
Have mercy, indeed.
Dear Lord, When I am mistreated or get less than I might deserve, help me not become bitter. Help me to extend mercy to those who don’t deserve it, even when they are less than merciful to me. Help me live the values of the kingdom even now. Amen.