Jesus said, “I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
From Heather Stephens
“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
I believe in the idea of what you put out in the world, you get back. At least, I believe that in the sense that I try to put it into practice in my life. I also believe that unjust things happen to people who have seemingly put out remarkably wonderful things into the world as much as they have to people who have seemingly put out hurtful things into the world.
Maybe that is why I got such delight in seeing these two sentences together when I was searching for a starting point for my thoughts. In his first breath, Jesus encourages those listening to him to do good and right things without expecting anything. In his next breath, Jesus tells them that if they do that, they will be given a great reward. In those two sentences, he turns a hard task into an impossible one. How can you do the good and right things without expectation while expecting to receive a great reward for doing that?
This section in Luke comes after the religious elite become angry with Jesus because he ate grain and healed someone on the Sabbath, he chooses 12 unlikely people to be his apostles (including someone who would ultimately betray him), radiated with so much healing that people touching him walked away healed, and shared the Sermon on the Plain, which includes four of the beatitudes and their opposites.
I wonder in all of this whether Jesus is lecturing us less on the morality of how we should live and is simply reminding us to be careful because we have a lot more in common with each other than difference. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”