“The Strength to Love” (click to listen, right click to download)
Jesus calls his followers to non-retaliation: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” This is not a blanket pacifism, nor a call to be the doormat of someone’s verbal abuse, nor is it an excuse to ignore criminal behavior. Jesus’ teaching is a call to respond to personal insults without retaliation and also with active love.
All of us confront the question, “How do I respond to the person who has wronged me, insulted me, or slighted me?”
Jesus is preparing his followers to be mistreated. They are to expect ridicule and slander, because those who do not know God will always rebel against God’s authority with insults towards his followers. But Jesus takes the command one step further. He challenges us in regards to our outlook toward the other person. It is one thing to withhold retaliation; it is quite another to do good to your enemy, or bless the one who opposes you. When we actively love an enemy in the way he or she least expects, sometimes the situation is diffused, and our enemy has sat up and taken notice!
Where does this strength come from, to love someone who has harmed you? It is, in essence, supernatural. The strength to love one’s enemy comes from the Holy Spirit: by recognizing that person’s common humanity, by recognizing that on our own worst days we are capable of the same insults, and by weeping over the fact that our enemy- without Christ and in the clutches of sin- will spend an eternity in hell if he or she does not turn to Christ.
Jesus, while dying on the cross, asked the Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When we are subjected to mistreatment, Jesus calls us to do the same.