“But I saw to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27)
A young Muslim responded to a reporter in a street interview: “You Christians say you turn the other cheek if someone strikes you. We Muslims do not. And if you turn the other cheek, we will strike it, too.” Not exactly the spirit of what Jesus taught, is it? Then again, how much do we Christians actually practice what Jesus taught?
Jesus set a standard for human civility that is unmatched. It clearly did not square with the teachings His listeners were raised with: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” He instead teaches us to love our enemies, bless them, pray for them, give to them, lend to them, and be merciful to them. That’s a tall order! Actually, it’s humanly impossible.
Jesus said that if we live this way, our reward will be great because we are sons of the Most High, who is gracious toward the ungrateful and evil. What Jesus taught is actually how God behaves toward us. He expressed mercy toward us. To follow that behavior means that we must, therefore, be born of Him. Only someone who is born again as a child of God has the capability of expressing the goodness of God on a plane of behavior that is higher than what is common among people. Only a spiritual birth can create the possibility that a human being can actually live by the civil standard Jesus taught. Thus, we who have experienced this new birth have that capability, and we are called upon to practice it rather than the civil standard that is so common in our world.
Lord, Help us today, through the power of Your indwelling Spirit, to live the life that follows the standard You set rather than following the drumbeat of this world. Amen.