A New Justice
Jesus’ great transformation of values is at work in this passage. The world we live in expects us to live by its standard operation procedures of self-service, self-preservation and self-fulfillment. But Jesus calls to us a life lived with radically different motives and actions. He calls us to “be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), which is to receive into a nurture within ourselves the love of God–agape love.
For instance, just as God has not let our hostility toward him turn him against us, so are we to demonstrate the same kind of persistent love toward those who are hostile toward us. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). Christ taught his followers not only to love their enemies but also to be good stewards of their human brothers and sisters. Imagine how Jesus looked deep into the eyes of hose who opposed him to see them as the Father would. Can you and I do less than to look into the eyes of our enemies and search deep for the image of God in them, that which Scottish Victorian novelist, poet and Christian fantasy writer George MacDonald (1824-1905) calls the “divine essence”?
The very words humane and humanity denote some shadow of that loving-kindness which, when perfected after the divine fashion, shall include even our enemies. The offering of human sacrifices, the torturing of captives, cannibalism–we do not call this humanity. Not because they do such deeds are they men. Their humanity must be deeper than those. It is in virtue of the divine essence which is in them, that pure essential humanity, that we call our enemies men and women. It is this humanity that we are to love–a something, I say, deeper altogether than and independent of the region of hate.
It is agape love that enables the children of God to be as generous and openhanded as God as been to them. Such radical action may be “bad stewardship” by the world’s standards, but not by God’s.
After all, by the world’s standards, loving those who love you is perfectly understandable. Doing good to those who do you good is just sensible reciprocal business (see Mt 5:46-47). But kingdom economy has a very different dynamic. Those who are children of the Most High God give without reciprocity. Kingdom economics are “flowing through” accounts. Theologian Miroslav Volf says, “If God is the third party in the relationship between givers and recipients, givers cannot lose. They always receive what they give, and more. That’s the ‘law’ of the flow. Those who pass gifts receive more abundantly from the source of all gifts.”
When a kingdom steward lives and loves by this mode of operation the world looks at him on her and sees something different. They see the light (see Mt 5:14) that comes from “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12).
LUKE 6:27-36 NKJV
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.