(Matthew 5:38-48) Have you ever thought how radical it is to be a Christian? This week’s Gospel is a prime example. Jesus says that it’s not enough to love those who love us. We must also love those who annoy us, who offend us, and even those who deeply hurt us. This sounds downright crazy! After all, isn’t it only natural to want to right the wrongs that have been committed against us? Yet, Jesus suggests we defy our human inclinations, our “natural” response. Because, in the end, getting back at someone accomplishes nothing and only leaves us as broken as before.
Jesus tells us that the best way to counter our enemies is to love them. And, by “love,” I don’t think He meant we should “kill them with kindness,” which is really just another form of revenge. We must genuinely strive to forgive those who are persecuting us. Drop our fists and our defenses. Be generous to a fault. We can’t do it on our own. But God’s grace expands our capacity to love and puts us on the path to perfect love. This is the example Jesus gave us when He forgave His persecutors.
Not that the Lord turns a blind eye to our suffering or to acts of injustice. He of all people knows what it feels like! He endured more suffering than most of us will ever face. Yet human history and our own experience tell us that violence only begets more of the same. Love alone has the power to break the cycle of revenge and violence – and to change hardened hearts. Praying for our adversaries erases the line that separates us, and we begin to see past the situation to the person hidden within. Only then are we in a position to understand one another.
When we demonstrate this radical kind of love and forgiveness, the world will recognize something much greater at work. For it can only be through the power and grace of God that we can love in this way; humanly it is impossible. Ultimately, this experience of Goodness – of the genuine love of God – is what we all seek. God’s tender compassion heals the hurt that ails our broken world. His love alone has the power to make us whole.
“For with God, nothing will be impossible” – Luke 1:37.
– Kelley Holy