The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 6:31-36
In today’s gospel reading we start by hearing one of the famous teachings of Our Lord Jesus, “As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” We often hear Our Lord teaching us how to love God but today the focus is slightly different. The focus of the message is how we love others. For the Lord Jesus that doesn’t apply to our own family members and friends. Love for those who love us should be almost instinctual. What the Lord is talking about is much deeper.
How do we treat those with whom we don’t share a deep relationship? Even more importantly, how do we treat those who treat us harshly or unkindly? I’m sure that each one of us has encountered difficult people. Sometimes these are people we work with. For children and teens, it may be some of their classmates from school. The way that Our Lord expects us to treat these people is truly original. He tells us to do something quite breathtaking and earth-shattering. He tells us to love them. Even if the person we are dealing with is our sworn enemy, even when the person who has made our life miserable, even when the person has hurt us terribly. Love them.
Our Lord is frequently teaching us difficult things. He forces us to go out of our way to do things that are almost unreal. What we want to do is lash out at those who lash out at us. We want to inflict pain on those who make us suffer. We want to ignore those who make our lives difficult. We want to mock those who mock us. When we act in these ways, we are acting naturally through our human instinct but the problem is that our nature is defiled and corrupted through sin. Our Lord wants us to act, not like the children of this world, but like His Father’s children.
We can find that Our Lord is unreasonable with us. He is asking too much of us. Yes I will love the people at Church and yes I will love my family and friends and those who are around me but how could I possibly love my enemies Lord? The Lord answers us even while lifted high upon His Cross. It was His love for His people and for His enemies that sent Him to the Cross. Since we want to be sons and daughters of God, we have to imitate the Lord. As servants, we can’t expect to be treated better than our Master can we?
It’s not a matter of whether or not it is possible to love our enemies, from the Cross we see Our Lord telling saying “Yes, indeed, it is possible!” The proper question is not, “Can I love my enemies?” The proper question is “Will loving my enemies be easy?” The answer is “It depends.”
It depends on us. The way we react to our enemies says quite a bit about what we truly believe about God. In the Christian life we don’t act a certain way based on our own feelings or opinions. We act based on our faith and obedience to the Lord and His teachings. We act and react based on the kind of faith that we have in God. The point I’m trying to make is that whether or not I love my enemies is most certainly related to whether or not I understand what God has done for me.
We are taught that sin is rebellion against God. That means that everyone who sins is an enemy of God. When we sin we have openly declared war against God and His holiness. The Apostle Paul writing to the Romans says
“Rom 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:6-8). He continues saying “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
What we see here so important. Christ Our Lord died for us, while we were still the enemies of God! By doing this He reconciled us to His Father. When we love others we aren’t treating them according to the way we’ve been treated, we are treating them according to the way God has treated us! Do we really believe in God’s forgiveness? Show forgiveness to others. Do we really believe in God’s mercy? Be merciful to others. Do we really believe in God’s love? Show love to others.
This teaching is so serious that one of the modern saints, Silouan of Mt. Athos taught that unless we love our enemies, we do not yet know God or His love. Brothers and sisters, there are a lot of people who still don’t know God, based on this teaching.
What do you think is the most practical and powerful way to show love for your enemies? Pray for your enemies. Pray for them by name. Prayer is the most powerful activity given to us as humans! When we can pray for others, especially our enemies we become like the Lord. And as St. Paul said in the passage we just quoted we were reconciled to God by Our Lord Jesus. So our prayers for our enemies also help to reconcile them to God.
The Lord isn’t asking us to do something that is difficult. He is asking us to do something that should come naturally to us because we’ve received so many wonderful things while we deserved so very little. And Glory be to God Forever AMEN.