Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly – Luke 6:27

Jesus’ statement above shows the theme of his core teaching and missional practices. This statement in a more positive way resonates with the Golden Rule “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” Jesus’ teaching especially in relation to our ‘enemies’ is not beyond our capacity. The world and even the church is going through an increasing process of hatred and retaliation in a never-ending spiral of vengeance and loss of life. The Gospel today from Luke summons us to break this lose-lose and lose-win cycle and culture by following Jesus’ advice. Jesus’ teaching invites us to a win-win culture where everyone benefits. We need to understand the meaning of love in the context of Jesus’ teaching beyond affection and intimacy. Jesus’ statement according to the Greek verb, agapo, is a special kind of love, ‘an attitude of positive regard towards other people by which I wish for their well-being.’ The story of the prodigal son in his lowest moments of debauchery and degradation and the people who were nailing Jesus to the cross explains to us, who are our “enemies”? It is very interesting to note that, Christians should have no enemies, hence ‘loving our enemies seems altogether reasonable. And not only not impossible but really the only thing to do.’ The reflection is that we should stop focusing ‘too much on ourselves and our immediate needs and overlook the needs of others. To love as God loves is to focus more on others. We can only do this if we have a strong inner sense of security and self acceptance.’

While Jesus commands us to love the enemies and our persecutors the Old Testament and our contemporary culture presumed hatred of evil doers ‘to be the right attitude to have,’ ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ The world and the church is becoming blind today because of the culture of eye for an eye, and toothless because of the culture of a tooth for a tooth. The reflection is that compassion, holiness, humbleness, generosity, justice, peace, tolerance, honesty, loyalty, respect and trust among other values are no longer the qualities that characterise the people in the world. To follow Jesus’ teaching in order to reverse the values of today’s culture it does not require any will-power that ‘would only encourage those people to behave even worse.’ In our Luke Gospel reading today, the first and second sections of Jesus’ teachings to his followers (6:20-26; 27-38), Culpepper explained that the teachings ‘set in place the two principles that pose stumbling blocks  for most modern Christians: the repudiation of privilege based on wealth and the repudiation of retaliation that spawns violence.’ The argument is that the two principles ‘are diametrically opposed to the assumptions of the market place and the media that shape … culture.’ We are in a modern culture where ‘the wealthy are privileged, and conflict  requires that one show strength through retaliation … As a result, the power of materialism and the question of possessions have increased dramatically during this century and violence in our homes, schools, and streets is rampant.’ This is one of the causes and bottom line in the increase of knife crimes and others social ills and tragedies. The solution is not sheer passivity. To reverse this trend and culture that promote violence and vengeance, Culpepper explained that ‘Jesus’ alternative is not sheer passivity but aggressive action to undermine hostility and violence.’ Jesus taught us ‘a new attitude toward possessions and persons in need and a new response to hostility.’

Richard Jensen in his book Preaching Luke’s Gospel that encourages preachers to move from telling a story to telling the story explained that Jesus’ teaching in Luke calls us to live our lives out of an alternative vision of reality. We are called to live our ‘lives as lives that reverse the values of this culture. I call you to love your enemy; turn the other cheek; give your possessions to those in need and judge not the lives of others. Be merciful even as I am merciful. I have come to empower you with mercy in order that you may, indeed, live a new kind of life in this world.’ Paul’s admonition to the Philippians provides a renewing summary for us on how to reverse the self-centred value of our contemporary culture. Paul said “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). Our model of other-centred life is Jesus. According to Selwyn Hughes, in his devotional Every Day with Jesus, March/April 2007, Jesus’ experience on the Cross beyond self-pity and self-concern points to an example of being other-centred.

Let us prayerfully join Graham Kendrick (1950) in his hymn to declare:

Lord, the light of your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness, shining
Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us
Set us free by the truth you now bring us
Shine on me, shine on me

Shine, Jesus, shine
Fill this land with the Father’s glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river, flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your word
Lord, and let there be light

Lord, I come to your awesome presence
From the shadows into your radiance
By the blood I may enter your brightness
Search me, try me, consume all my darkness
Shine on me, shine on me

As we gaze on your kingly brightness
So our faces display your likeness
Ever changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell your story
Shine on me, shine on me