Luke 6:27-31 (NRSV)
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
I suspect a lot of good Christians wince at this radical teaching of Jesus, immediately imagining a dozen or more scenarios where these precepts seem impractical.
We are in good company. The church—by that, I mean the great, historic, traditional church stretching back to the earliest days of Christianity—has always struggled with how to live into Jesus’ teachings while contending directly with a world full of dangerous evil.
Facing imminent attack? Well, you may find Just War Theory helpful. And there are many other situations where theologians have acknowledged it can be more loving to take a naturally repulsive action than to take no action at all.
For example, turning the other cheek is a noble response, but if in doing so you endanger the lives of people dependent on you, then a different strategy may be in order. Much of what Jesus said is about witnessing to others, and allowing unnecessary harm to happen makes for a poor display of Christ’s love.
Let’s not, however, turn those rare compromises into an excuse for avoiding what Jesus would have us do. It’s particularly important we follow these teachings when a pacifist response could transform another’s soul.
Verbally assaulted? Be the one who responds with kindness.
Confronted with great need? Do something about it, even if the people in need somehow seem unworthy by worldly standards.
As we deliberately practice Jesus’ teachings in everyday situations, perhaps we will find new and creative ways to apply them to major conflicts.
Dear Lord, help us to identify opportunities to practice what you have preached, swallowing our emotional responses so we may instead demonstrate your love. Amen.