27 This is what I say to all who will listen to me:
Love your enemies, and be good to everyone who hates you. 28 Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, don’t stop that person from slapping you on the other cheek. If someone wants to take your coat, don’t try to keep back your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who asks and don’t ask people to return what they have taken from you.
31 Treat others just as you want to be treated.
32 If you love only someone who loves you, will God praise you for that? Even sinners love people who love them. 33 If you are kind only to someone who is kind to you, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners are kind to people who are kind to them.
34 If you lend money only to someone you think will pay you back, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners lend to sinners because they think they will get it all back.
35 But love your enemies and be good to them. Lend without expecting to be paid back. Then you will get a great reward, and you will be the true children of God in heaven. He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel.
36 Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you.
Maybe I am naive, but reading this, it sounds like people who follow Jesus are not liked by others. They are not high in society. They are not living comfortable lives. They are living bold – people are hating them, cursing them, slapping them on the face, stealing their belongings! And how do they respond? By loving those who hate them, praying for those who persecute them, enduring even more abuse, and giving more to people who steal from them.
I do not know if these were meant to be everyday or regular occurrences in the life of a Christian, but I do know this is a radically different lifestyle than the one accepted by popular American culture. I know I do not live this way.
Followers of Jesus are meant to rub people the wrong way. I think we are meant to reach people not by being so overly “nice” that we do not challenge their sin, or step on their toes about Jesus, but by calling out their sin, being bold about Jesus, and still responding in love when they react negatively.
In this passage followers of Jesus are told to “treat others as you want to be treated.” So, if we are calling people out on their sin, we must also be open to the rebuke and correction of our sin. This requires humility. LOTS of it.
Followers of Jesus are meant to give, give, give until it hurts them. To live exceedingly generous lifestyles, especially for current American standards. We are to give of our reputation (v.27), our pride (v.28-29, 32-33), our physical well-being (v.29), our belongings/resources (v.30, 34), and our compassion (v.36). We are to be givers. Joyful ones at that! And we can be, knowing what the Lord has given to us – salvation, and life eternal with Him.
Holy Spirit, guide the way. Jesus, show your sleepy followers the meaning of joyful and willing sacrifice!