I say to you…if anyone strikes you on the right cheek,
turn the other also. I say to you, love your enemies.
When the crowds asked Jesus for the most important commandment, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The commandments that Jesus gives in this Sunday’s reading – to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies – are really nothing more than extensions of this most important command to love God and neighbor and self.
But what hard extensions! Two thousand years after Jesus first uttered these words, these two commands are still startling, still counter-cultural. “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your enemies” continue to challenge us to love more deeply than we might wish. They are the bedrock on which the non-violent movements for civil rights, in our own country and around the world, have been founded. Indeed, Dr. King felt these commands were an “absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization.”
So how do we follow these commandments? I’ll offer some reflections on this in my sermon on Sunday. For now, I’m mindful of another phrase of scripture, the words from the angel Gabriel to Mary as he spoke of her becoming the mother of the Messiah: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” We can’t do this on our own power, but with God and with each other, we can be part of a miracle: the healing of all that is broken, in our own spirits and in the world around us. And so I echo Mary’s response: May it be!