Do Good to Those Who Hate You
By Pastor Jerry Donovan
In their book Churchless, George Barna and David Kinnaman drew data from a series of eighteen nationwide surveys conducted with adults between the years 2008 to 2014. Despite all the technology that connects people, those outside the church say they are becoming increasingly lonely and are looking for relational connections. They have growing concerns about the future, and stress in their lives is increasing. One in four has never experienced church, while one in three consider themselves to be “spiritual.” 57% say faith is important to them, 56% are single. 46% percent say family is a high priority for them. One in four identify themselves as “skeptic,” “agnostic,” or “atheist.” Only 15% see the lifestyles of Christians as being any noticeably more positive than non-Christians. The following values are important to them: doing good and good works, peace and unity even in disagreement, health and healing, community – a sense of belonging, wisdom—practical advice that works in real life, and mentoring – help with growth as individuals.
In the Bible’s book of Luke 6:20-26 Jesus had gone to a level place and began giving the greatest sermon of all time. He looked directly at the disciples and began giving them the principles that would distinguish those who follow him. He gives a profile of what a disciple is to be. Those who follow Jesus must operate under a set of values opposite that of the world. The Lord explained that a blessed life was not found in “getting” or from “doing” but from “being.”
Then in verses 6:27-38 he continues with a much more radical guidance about how we are to respond to our enemies, “…love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” This message has relevance to everyone today because, difficult people are a problem for everyone. It does not matter how old you are or what gender, or your personality type because we all meet with difficult people. There is no way to completely avoid them. When I say “difficult people” I am referring to those people who mistreat us, speak evil about us or who do us harm.
These verses set in place the two principles that result in stumbling blocks for most modern Christians: the abandonment of privilege based on wealth and the abandonment of retaliation that spawns violence. These principles are diametrically opposed to the assumptions of the marketplace and the media that shape American culture. The wealthy are privileged, and conflict requires that strength be shown through retaliation. Therefore, our heroes are usually neither poor nor non-violent. As a result, the power of materialism and the question for possessions have increased dramatically during this century and violence in our homes, schools, and streets is rampant.
Jesus’ word for us today is: “I call you to live your lives out of an alternative vision of reality. I call you to live your lives as lives that reverse the values of this culture. I call you to love your enemy; turn the other cheek; give your possessions to those in need and judge not the lives of others. Be merciful even as I am merciful. I have come to nourish your entire life with my mercy. I have come to empower you with mercy in order that you may, indeed, live a new kind of life in this world.”