“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 the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would 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 sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" Matthew 5:38-46
We went to see the Red Sox play the Orioles last night. It was a cold and damp evening but a great crowd. We sat through 12 innings of a long tied game of baseball and started home after 4 hours. The Orioles won after another good bit of time by 6 to 4. It can be dangerous to be rooting for anyone but the home team. AS Oriole fans, we were in the vast, vast minority - the enemy - and we tried to keep our feelings to ourselves - mostly so we would come out alive. Yes, it's all in good fun but after 4 hours and too much to drink some die-hard fans can become cranky. We watched as several folks were removed from the game who were on the verge of an all out fight. Tempers run high and a cold, disappointed crowd can turn ugly. We can make enemies over small things and stoke those hatreds for a lifetime. Hate can come all too easy, and love can be hard to find.
Jesus continues his hard teachings about living life. He knows that they will have to face an endless stream of enemies, tirades from big and small alike. The disciples and the other followers were facing life as the enemy of the status quo, the enemy of the state and the enemy of the religious leadership. They could lives their lives filled with hate, or practice love - a non-retaliating, constantly forgiving and giving life. Not an easy path, but absolutely necessary. Once hatred gets in, everyone can seem the enemy. Once love is the only rule than the family increases, and even in hostile territory, we can find clear passage.
Today, as we continue on our journey, I ask God to help me to see everyone as a member of the extended family, as a potential friend rather than the competition, the enemy or the like. God invites us today to change the world, one small act at a time, by interjecting love where there was only hostility, generosity where there was only greed, and mercy where there has been only judgement. May we respond to God's invitation and change the world.