‘Do unto others’, not ‘do them first’ LUKE 6:27–38
Revenge is not of God. This is the simple statement that Jesus’ teaching powerfully bears out to us in today’s gospel reading. This was the same principle that lay in the heart of David when he called out to Saul across the great divide, “Today, the Lord put you in my power but I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” What strength of character this young David possessed that he could utter such words to a man who had previously sought to kill him on numerous occasions!
Saul, his king and his mentor, consumed with envy, had lain asleep before him, bare, unguarded and totally at his mercy, and Abishai was ready, willing and able to wreak vengeance on the vulnerable Saul for all that he had done to his compatriot.
But David, moved by the spirit of God, made a magnanimous gesture of forgiveness toward Saul. He had taken Saul’s spear and water jug and, moving away, he had challenged Saul from across the space that then lay between them.
In today’s culture this is an eye opener for us, for by today’s standards, David’s act of love was unthinkable; it seemed unbelievable that David could be so generous toward his enemy! For us there is murder and mayhem all around; it’s friend against friend, brother against brother, and child against parent—all in our clinging to seeking our own rights and to having our own way, at the expense of anyone whom we encounter.
What a challenge we are given in this Sunday’s readings, and especially in the Gospel, when Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.” Is He for real, we might ask? In a world that is fraught with so much anger and backbiting how can He ask this seeming impossibility of us!
But Jesus lived by example and we are soon to encounter His living example as we journey with Him through His Passion and on to His glorious resurrection. Mercy and forgiveness were not just vocal platitudes for Him, they were precepts that He lived out in His life through and through, with His ultimate sacrifice being witnessed through one of His signature utterances from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do!”.
This is in sharp contrast to Abishai’s apparent maxim of ‘do them first’. Abishai certainly wasn’t the ‘turn-the-other-cheek’ guy but then we can ask if we are! When we are challenged by other drivers on the road, or when we are faced with various situations in our homes, in our workplaces or in places of entertainment, what do we do? Do we have the grace to turn the other cheek, or do we wreak ‘the vengeance of moko’ on the offending party?
Would that, in today’s world, we could have just a little of David’s spirit of forgiveness and compassion which were nurtured by the great love that had been placed in his heart, and by the love that had been kept alive within him through the indwelling Spirit. He knew that the battle was still in God’s hands; God would work out the victory then, just as He had proven to him previously in his encounter with Goliath.
Today’s Gospel urges us to, “Treat others as you would like them to treat you”. We must exercise the compassion that Jesus showed for all whom He met. Right now, we all crave that this world be a better place but are we really prepared to take the steps required to make it so?
Are we prepared for the sacrifice this could demand of us? It would require that we love beyond all measure in every aspect of our lives; it would require that we not judge another for we have not walked in their shoes. It would require that we pour ourselves generously, but unobtrusively, into another’s circumstances so as to be a vehicle of support for that person.
Can we each adopt a similar attitude for the upcoming Lenten season that, in its working out, would have us see another with the eyes of Christ and love with the heart of Christ so that we could give to others till it hurts?
These could be very tough standards by which we are called to daily living but they are not impossible standards—if we have the mind of Christ. By our example this could be a way of life for our children so that, through its continued working out, our world could be the place it was meant to be. We pray for the fulfilment of this seemingly impossible dream.
The Gospel Meditations for February were by Anne Marie Richardson, a retired educator and a parishioner of the Santa Rosa/Malabar cluster.