Reflection - February 24, 2019

“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘To you who hear I say,
love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.

Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?


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?
Even sinners do the same.

If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners,
and get back the same amount.
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.’”

When I hear or read this Gospel, I immediately start thinking about exceptions. What about domestic violence or child abuse? What about the dignity of every human person? What about the common good? What about order and peace and security? What about what is right? What about accountability and justice? Isn’t love sometimes tough? Shouldn’t we be a holy (set apart) people? Don’t good fences make for good neighbors? Shouldn’t we have expectations of others? Protect our own person? Talk soft, but carry a big stick? Aren’t there consequences? 

I wiggle away, trying to qualify what may be demanded of me. These are good questions, mind you, but it is the wrong place to start. I need to flip the script. What does Jesus’s teaching say about God? God is love, the giver and forgiver, unable to be repaid, who has made a way for us. Kind and merciful, the love of the Trinity holds us in existence. Jesus died for love of all who opposed love. He loves me and he loves you and he loves the most despicable evildoer equally. God’s love simply overflows. Are there important clarifications and distinctions to be made? Yes, but we should first be challenged to live with greater love. Starting with God, the last sentence could read: for the measure measured out to you should be the measure with which you measure. What is that measure? Love. Lavish revolutionary love.