Luke 6: 31-36
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Holy Gospel is only six verses long – but in these six short verses there is an entire universe of meaning and an encapsulation of the Gospels themselves.
In today’s Gospel we are taught what is known as ‘the Golden Rule’… that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This is, at one level, the foundation of basic courtesy and a civilized order among human beings. But it is also a profound and foundational spiritual truth which opens the gateway toward the keys to our Christian life: self-denial and Christ-like love.
Today’s Gospel goes on to say that if we love only those who love us, and do good only to those who do good to us, what do we have to boast about? For this is natural to any human being and can even be a source of feeding our own pride and selfishness. If we are motivated to love by an expectation of being loved in return, this is not the self-denying and self-emptying love which God speaks of. And this is why we hear in today’s Gospel the admonition that we are to love our enemies. We are to love and to be merciful, expecting and hoping for nothing in return. In loving our enemies we create a situation of imbalance which challenges and threatens our human will… for on the one hand, our enemies may be insulting us, may be unkind to us, may not understand us – and yet we are called by Christ to show them love. Not for the purpose of ‘winning them over’ (although this may be a wonderful consequence of showing selfless love), but we are especially instructed to love our enemies because in doing so we are thrust into the arena of loving with no strings attached, with no expectations of reward or reciprocity… simply and generously pouring ourselves out in a spirit of self-denial and demonstration of the love of God.
This is supremely challenging for our fallen human nature which demands justice, fairness, and our own rights. When we love someone, we expect to be loved in return and we’re hurt when this is not so. Such a reaction is, of course, natural… when we ‘do unto others’ we expect them to ‘do unto us’ in return. But Christ has demonstrated for us and calls us to a self-sacrificial love which serves as a means of casting aside our sinful nature and acquiring the Holy Spirit.
This is a very difficult calling… some years ago I came upon a little book called ‘The Paradoxical Commandments’ by Dr. Kent M. Keith. He expresses the paradox and imbalance and otherworldliness of this generous kind of love in the following way:
The Paradoxical Commandments
By Dr. Kent M. Keith
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centred.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favour underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
The Christian life and the cross of love we are asked to take up are not fair… They are foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved they are the power of God and the wisdom of God. This kind of love takes tremendous courage and determination… It requires zeal for righteousness, spiritual maturity, and a healthy and realistic sense of one’s self and where our true worth comes from.
It is important to add here, that all too often this kind of self-sacrificing service and love to others gets misunderstood and can degenerate into spineless passivity and tolerance of evil or can be an unhealthy self-punishment and even facilitation of abuse. That is dangerous both for the abused and the abuser and must not be permitted. We must have a clear vision of the image of God within ourselves and within others. If we see ourselves and others as God sees us, as bearers of the Divine Image, then we will show care and concern for the salvation of all! We must never use the sins of others as stepping stones on the ladder of our own ascent.
The call of the Gospel is for us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things will be added unto us. Simply and humbly and courageously living a life of Christian love will bring plenty of opportunity for struggle. Our attention must remain fixed on our ‘doing unto others’… showing compassion and Christian love. Whether or not others ever ‘do unto us’ in return is irrelevant.
Christ calls us to love… to be a reflection of His Light in a darkened world.
Do we see a world that is falling apart, that is descending into chaos and sin, that is turning its back on God? Do we experience a lack of love in our home or in our workplace? What must be our response? ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Where there is a lack of love, let us insert love. Where there is chaos and sin, let us show forth peace and righteousness. Where things are falling apart, let us fall upon our knees and beseech God to hold things together in His loving and capable Hands. The Light of Christ shines upon the just and the unjust alike… God grant us the grace to reflect that Light of Christ and to illumine the darkness.