Salem Lutheran Church

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Love Your Enemies

This past Sunday, we heard Jesus begin his Sermon on the Plain with Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, Luke 6:17-26. As I noted in my sermon, the Beatitudes were not intended to offer an abstract way of living; they were “Jesus’ way of offering us a very specific ways of holy living.”

And now, this week, we will hear Jesus offer some very specific ways of living that probably, for most of us, seem impossible. In our Gospel text this coming Sunday, Luke 6:27-38, Jesus spells out what it means to live holy lives. Jesus begins by saying “love your enemies,” and then he goes on to say, if someone hits you on the right cheek, do not hit back, but instead, offer them the other cheek. Now, Jesus is not advocating that we Christians have to allow mean people to destroy us, but he is advocating that to respond to such evil or violence with more evil or violence would be wrong, because violence always brings about more violence. So, Jesus says, if you want to end violence, respond to it in nonviolent ways.

In the case of offering the other check, Jesus was referring to an action that would have been well understood in his day. You see, in Jesus’ day, much like today, to be hit on the right cheek would most likely mean that the aggressor was hitting you with the back of their right hand. This would have been more of an insult than an act of aggression. It would have been more of an act of a bully trying to get the weaker person to back away. Jesus says, if that happens, don’t swing back, but resist the aggressor by standing up to them by offering them your left cheek, which would mean that you now would know the hit was coming and you would be in control. It would be like saying today, “You want to fight, go ahead and hit me with your best shot.” Usually, when a bully is challenged, they back away. Jesus is saying a nonviolent, loving response will get you farther in ending violence than responding with more violence. As Paul wrote to the Romans, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads" (12:20).

Brothers and sisters, we live in a violent, broken world, and all around us we are told that the best way to deal with violence and hatred is by offering more violence, and we often justify our actions by saying that the other person started it or that the other person did something first. We use God’s own words, an “eye for an eye…” (Exodus 21:23-24), but this is not what God meant. Those laws were intended to stop violence and to prevent excessive legal judgments, not to justify revenge and encourage more violence.

No, in this violent world, we are to respond to evil not as a doormat to be stepped all over, but with power and confidence that love, God’s love, will prevail. If we want to experience God’s kingdom, we must begin loving even those who hate us, those who persecute us, and those who despise us. Jesus did not say it would be easy, but he did promise that God’s ways would always win out.

So are you willing to try it? Are you willing to practice loving those who do not love you? Are you willing to pray for your enemies? Be a radical! Be a nonviolent dissenter and begin to change the world today.

Have a blessed and nonviolent week.

Shalom, Pastor Dave


Tags: Weekly Word