The Hard Work of Vanquishing Enemies
SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
Prayer of the Day: O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace, that where there is hatred, we may sow love, where there is injury, pardon, and where there is despair, hope. Grant, O divine master, that we may seek to console, to understand, and to love in your name, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
“But I say to you that listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:27-31.
This is undoubtedly among the sayings most Christians of every persuasion secretly wish Jesus had never uttered. If you define love as broadly as possible, you can perhaps fudge love for enemies by characterizing what appears to be loveless behavior as “tough love.” But Jesus is not content to leave this open to interpretation. “If anyone strikes you on the cheek,” he says, “offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.” Anyone daring to suggest that Jesus might actually mean to be taken literally here can expect to be showered with “what abouts.” What about the thug who sticks a gun in the face of your dear old granny? What about Hitler? What about the abused wife? Should I stand by passively as my grandma is murdered? Should the Jews have walked obediently into the gas chambers? Should a wife cheerfully submit to being beaten?
There are some serious concerns lurking under these objections. But their phrasing betrays a host of unexamined assumptions. Read more