Love of Enemies (Luke 6:27-36)

Love of Enemies

27 “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. 35 But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.

Christ is preaching something new.  His audience is used to “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” kind of recompense (see Lv 24:20).  Verses 27 through 29 would fly in the face of conventional beliefs; they deliver a truly Christian message and we clearly recognize verse 31 as the Golden Rule.

In the entire context of this pericope we see the introduction of the Universal Call to Holiness.  That is, each of us is called to be a saint; truly a saint.  We are called to show the same kind of mercy that God has for all of us.  As the Christian message develops we will also see that God gives us the grace necessary to answer that call by sharing His Spirit with us.

I just want to point out that I really like it when scripture contains a double meaning and thought I would bring it to your attention.  Christ begins “to you who hear”.  In one sense it has the straight forward meaning that can simply be understood as “to everyone who is listening, or who can hear my voice.”

However, it can have another meaning too. If you recall during the pericope about The Call of Simon the Fisherman (Lk 5:1-11), we discussed the Shema. This was a Jewish prayer that nearly everyone prayed twice a day; it’s the first scripture that Children learn.  All the Jews in the crowd would have been exceedingly familiar with it.  It begins “Hear, O Israel!”  The Hebrew word shema means “hear” and it’s the first word of the prayer.  (It wasn’t uncommon to name a prayer by the first word.  In fact we still do it in the Catholic Church.  If you’re familiar with the Magnificat, or the Benedictus, then you know what I mean. But I digress; sorry.) The Shema also says the following:

Take to heart these words which I command you today.  Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. (Dt 6:6-7)

The prayer of the Shema was delivered to the Israelite people in much the same setting as we see in this sermon. So, what I’m saying is that to a Jew in the crowd, if he looked around at the setting, and he heard Christ say “to you who hear”, then he would have seen a parallel between Christ’s teaching and the giving of the Law in the Old Testament.


Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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