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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 6:27–38

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (NRSV)

This entire passage is an instruction to go the extra mile. And that’s putting it mildly. While the implication is that loving those who love you is easy, I’m not so sure. My family loves me, but I’m betting it hasn’t always been easy for them to do so, and I know I haven’t always easily loved them. My children, my husband, my extended family have all pushed me to places of having to dig very deep so that I could understand or accept or listen and then continue to love them. The difficulty is that we are all so blasted unique and significantly self-absorbed.  We see things through our own lenses first and foremost.

What I also know is that loving those who are completely different from me, and not bound to me in any kind of family constellation, has stretched me even further. When I have struggled with someone I might call an enemy, a person whom I just don’t “get,” whose theology is different, or whose class is different, or whose personality is different—those people I have categorized and around whom I’ve put boundaries of judgment—if I’ve stayed with it, the gift is beyond all measure. Gift upon gift, grace upon grace, and awesome surprise.

But still, everything I’ve just written implies some kind of return for me. I have a feeling that the point Jesus is trying to make, which I so often forget or dismiss, is that when we give, it’s not about what we’ll get back for doing so. Give and love without expecting to be repaid in kind. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” That’s the real stretcher, isn’t it? To give, to love, without expecting the balance sheet to tally up.

God of all grace and mercy, we are so interested in protecting ourselves, our dignity, our possessions, our feelings. You know this about us, and yet you keep loving us. Forgive us our self-protection. Help us to stretch, with courage. Help us to go the extra mile, with generosity. Help us to stop trying to make it all come out equal. Help us to love. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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