The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 6:31-36
There is a powerful teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ that is well known as the “golden rule.” Our reading today begins with this golden rule. Our Lord Jesus says “As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” This teaching has the power to change your life, but like all of the teaching of the Lord Jesus, it only happens if one puts it into practice.
Every one of us has certain pet peeves. Each one of us is annoyed by the certain actions of others. Every one of us expects a certain standard of treatment. The genius of this teaching is that it takes that standard of treatment that we would like or appreciate and the Lord forces us to apply that standard to others. Wow.
If you don’t like it when others get angry with you, don’t get angry with others. If you don’t like it when others yell at you, don’t yell at others. If you don’t like it when others lie to you, why do you lie to others? If you would like others to share with you, then share with them. If you would like others not to speak evil of you or gossip about you, then you should also refrain from speaking evil or gossiping about others. If you would like others to treat you with kindness and respect, then treat others with kindness and respect. If you would like others to show you love, then show love to others.
Each of these principles points us to a very important fact. You are not special. That’s right. You are not special. Every man, woman and child who has ever lived throughout all of the history of humanity is just as important as you are. How is that possible? Because each and every person was created in the image of God. Each of them was given life by Him. So in fact when we treat the others in the way that we would like to be treated, we are actually showing extreme reverence and gratitude to God for His own handiwork.
It goes further than that. The Lord concludes His teaching today by saying the words that no one else dared to utter “love your enemies.” This is one of the primary ways that we as Christians can stand out from the world, by our practice of radical love. We need it now more than ever perhaps. The rise of social media and the internet has helped to foment and stir up political discourse to a new and terrible level. Truth has gone out the window and all that is left is the search for power, or so it seems. In all of that frenzy over right and left, Democrat vs Republican, liberal vs conservative, we had better take seriously these words of the Lord Jesus, not to see people by their political orientation or their ideology or their worldview, but rather to see them through the lens of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross allows us to make sense of everything because it highlights for us the immutable law of the love of God for each of us.
Where did you read or hear that Jesus died for only one group of people? Where was it said that Christ’s death redeemed only one privileged class? His love is universal love for all of humanity, all of His creation. And He proves that what He teaches, He has fulfilled in practice. He tells us to do something that seems impossible, to love our enemies. And He shows us how to do it by patiently accepting to suffer and be killed at the hands of His enemies. Through His suffering and death, He did more than demonstrate His love. He poured it out upon creation. He took what was evil and He redeemed it and made it good, through His love. This is our only way forward as Christians.
St. Ambrose adds to this by saying “What Christ said in word, he proved also by example. Indeed, when he was on the cross, he said in reference to his persecutors who were slandering him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” so that he might pray for his slanderers, although he could have forgiven them himself.” Hereafather of the Church shows us that one of the ways that we show love to our enemies is to pray for them. Prayer is one of the ways that we direct our love towards God and towards others. When was the last time that you were angry with someone or some group? When was the last time that you prayed for them with fervent love for them and for their salvation? That was the example of the Lord while in the midst of excruciating suffering upon the cross, how can it not be our example?
I have mentioned this before but I must mention it again. St. Siouan, not so long ago wrote “He who does not love their enemies, does not know God.” That is something we must take seriously. We can’t put it off because we don’t know when we will go to meet the Lord. This isn’t easy…but it is possible with God’s help, so always ask God to help you love your enemies. Whatever we lack, we can request from God, who gives us generously.
Life is very short. Too short for hatred and grudges. Too short for false divisions. The devil divides, but only the Lord unites. Only the Lord grants us liberty and this liberty is the freedom from anger, sin and corruption. The Lord bought us such freedom through His love for us. Each of us must live by that rule of love that was demonstrated by the Lord, in order to fully know that love in the person of Jesus Christ. This is our purpose in life. Glory be to God forever AMEN.