“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Mahatma Gandhi once famously reflected that living by the old code of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” would leave the whole world blind and toothless! Jesus sets the bar so much higher in commanding us to love even our enemies. There is no passage in the bible more challenging to our instinctual way of reacting to threats than this text. So inspirational are these words that they became the underpinnings for Gandhi’s non-violent protests and the civil rights marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What a different America this would be if we took Jesus’ words to heart and started praying for those intent on doing us harm. Who are the enemies of our country and our Church that frighten us? Answer that question, and we have the solid beginnings for our prayer list.
—J. Michael Sparough, S.J. is a Retreat Master and Spiritual Director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House outside Chicago. He blogs weekly at heartoheart.org.
Lord, stretch our hearts and minds to make them more like your own.
Open us to the horizons of truth that we may see not enemies but brothers and sisters waiting to be reconciled. Lead us to live the love that you proclaimed when You prayed from the pulpit of the cross:”Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.“
—J. Michael Sparough, SJ