Seventh Sunday after Epiphany – Sunday, February 24, 2019

February 24, 2019  

Luke 6:27-38

This week’s gospel reading is a continuation of Luke’s version of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. Last week we heard the first part of the sermon: his list of blessings and woes. This week we hear an even more difficult challenge. Jesus said:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. (Luke 6:27b-30).

I could try to soften the severity of what Jesus said, but I would be doing a disservice to Jesus and everything he stood for. He was being literal when he said “Love your enemies.” He was not kidding around when he said “do good to those who hate you.” Jesus meant every word of this message we receive.
Now—our task is to figure out how to follow his commands.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in his sermon “Loving Your Enemies” “modern [humanity] is traveling along a road called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction and damnation… the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival” (Strength to Love, p. 41).

He also wrote “I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God” (Strength to Love, p. 42).

To love one’s enemies we must first surrender ourselves to God.
To “do good” to those who hate us means we must first surrender ourselves to God. To bless those who curse us and pray for those who abuse us we must first surrender ourselves to God—a total surrender.
We can do none of these without having confidence that God will love others in and through us.

In his sermon, Dr. King said “…we love [people] not because we like them, nor because their ways appeal to us, nor even because they possess some type of divine spark; we love every [person] because God loves [them]. At this level, we love the person who does an evil deed, although we hate the deed that [the person] does” (Strength to Love, p. 44).

Dr. King also said “We should be happy [Jesus] did not say, ‘Like your enemies.’ It is almost impossible to like some people… Jesus recognized that love is greater than like” (Strength to Love, p. 44).

Do not misunderstand the words of Jesus. Jesus is not telling a victim of abuse to stay in her home, allowing the abuse to continue. Jesus is not telling victims of oppression to “just live with” the oppression they experience.

Jeanne and I have two dogs: Mama and Scooter. Mama is, literally Scooter’s mother. We rescued them both when Scooter was a baby.

Mama has an interesting habit of playing dead. When she wants something she can’t have and we say no to her, she lays down, rolls over and plays dead. If she wants attention and she doesn’t get it, she lays down, rolls over and plays dead.

Don’t misunderstand what Jesus is telling us this morning. Jesus is not telling us that, when someone “strikes us on the cheek” or “takes our coat” that we should lie down, roll over and play dead. What has been done to us is awful. What has been done to us ought never be done again. As Dr. King said “we hate the deed the person does.” We must do what we can to see it is never done again. We report crimes, We report misdeeds. We name injustices.

We ARE challenged to love the person who committed the offense. We are challenged to pray for the person who hurt us.
Why?
Dr. King answers the question best: “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” (Strength to Love p. 45).

“Love is the most durable power in the world” (Strength to Love p. 49).

Love can be strident. Love can demand change. Love can name sin. Love can report abuse and theft. Love can say no to evil when evil is seen or heard or experienced. What love cannot do is hate the person who commits the sin.

A final thought from Dr. King. He said “We must love our enemies, because only by loving them can we know God and experience the beauty of [God’s] holiness” (Strength to Love , p. 47).

May God help us, always, “do to others as we would have them do to us” (Luke 6:31).

Amen.