Matthew 5:38-48; The Message (MSG)
Love Your Enemies
38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
I cannot believe I actually participated.
I know better.
And I did not even know this Christian leader at all.
Yet, there I was.
Incredulous at something he wrote on social media.
And I responded.
And then realized I should not have done so, so I deleted it, and then proceeded to post an apology for reactively responding.
My apology was not accepted.
In fact, it was used against me to shame me.
And then, the choir joined in and comment after comment ensued.
None of which I read, only heard about from a friend.
And the worst part?
I have held onto the experience tightly because this male, Christian leader represents a place of hurt and betrayal for me.
And even though the Giver of All Things has been so gracious in an outpouring of healing and has brought into my life friendships that have proven to be redemptive and restorative, this particular individual was a
And so, I must admit to you that I have found myself on more than one occasion, unable to sleep at night as my brain plays out scenarios of righteous vengeance that I could take – all under the blanket of anonymity, of course.
Our family recently moved.
And in doing so, we have been looking for a church to call home.
It is such a weirdly daunting endeavor.
And our family is unique, so it is nearly impossible to find one that feels like a good fit for us all. We are not seeking perfection mind you, but certainly a place where we are able to find community and growth.
And this weekend –
And, as per our usual,
in the most unlikely of places.
The sermon was on the passage quoted above.
And I use The Message text because this was what hit me right between the eyes.
The pastor talked about the idea of vengeance, and our desire in all righteousness, to right the wrongs of our world.
As a social justice activist, this is my wheelhouse, right?
Here is another version of verse 40 as quoted by the pastor this weekend,
“and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well.”
And the verse prior to this one even compels the reader to not resist an evildoer.
Do NOT resist.
Instead, not only offer one’s coat, but one’s cloak as well –
and offer it following a threat of harm
The pastor went on to explain that in doing this,
in offering one’s cloak to an evildoer,
In offering my cloak to this male Christian leader,
I am no longer enslaved to that relentless pursuit of vengeance, or
the shame and hurt I feel and allow to take root,
or the wall of protection I want to continually construct and maintain so that I am impenetrable of feeling pain or vulnerability – or welcoming community and friendship and finding joy and enrichment in my life.
I have been pursued by the Giver of All Things whom I have wronged frequently, who has EVERY reason to seek retaliation for the wrongs I have committed, and yet like the parable of the Prodigal Son,
I have been offered not only the cloak,
but also the fatted calf,
everything that the Giver of All Things has to offer –
all that I could possibly want or need.
And then some.
So, I will offer this man my cloak as well.
I will accept the freedom that comes with releasing the desire for righteous vengeance and that sense that I deserve to be justified.
I will cling to the truth that I have been relentlessly pursued and loved unconditionally, and that knowledge allows, compels, me to love my enemies in my perfectly human nature not from a place of rote obedience (although sometimes that is where it has to start) but because I have the freedom
reflect the holy
let go of the rest.