Updated: Sep 30, 2019
There are times when it is easy to follow the sayings of Jesus and a times you wish others would follow them as well. But in passages like today, the message seems to go against the grain. "Love your enemies", "pray for those who abuse you", and "give to everyone who begs", these seem easy on the surface but become complicated in the details. It is at times like this that I like to look at the passage before in order to find an escape hatch. Jesus was just saying how people will "exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man." Maybe the enemy and the abuser are those that attack you because of your faith in Christ. This seems like a good way to tamp down the message but, if I am honest with myself, I don't think that Jesus likes to be "tamped down".
In ministry, I have seen how evil people can be to one another and I have a hard time turning the other cheek even if there is some distant reward. When a woman comes into the office and admit to abuse, it becomes very difficult to say, "let's pray for your abuser". When someone that you trusted for years suddenly betrays that trust and causes your whole life to seem to fall apart, how am I to love them? When I see one generation teach another generation how to beg, should I enable that system which slowly erodes their quality of life? I want exceptions to the rule but the Gospel offers none and pretending that I follow these words to the letter is to make me into a liar. These passages make me face my own sinfulness and resistance to go all the way to the cross. It also makes me appreciate grace even more.
There is one thing that ministry has taught me in regards to loving those who purposely seem to go out of their way to attack me. It is usually more about them than me. I will admit that I make "legion" of mistakes and can make people mad even when I am working hard to do the opposite. But people that seem to devote a significant amount of time focused on me, often have a deeper issue that they are dealing with. Ministers and Christians are often "soft" targets for those in pain who need to vent in anger and rage. I think that is why this passage includes, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned." When I finally learned that the source of most anger and abusive behavior in rational individuals came from a deep wound, I began to see past the ugliness to the hurting child of God. That doesn't mean that I let them beat on me but I begin to understand the source of the hate. It is to this source that I feel called to pray for God's mercy, grace, and healing. Prayer doesn't mean simply adding them to a list but being willing to help them if God chooses to use you as an instrument. When this happens, it is truly amazing the healing wonders God can perform. Until then, however, I continue to struggle with difficult passages of Jesus.