He [Jesus] came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of His disciples, and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear Him ….
(Also see Luke 6:18-31 and Matthew 5:1-2ff)
If today’s first lesson from the Gospel of Luke sounds familiar, then it is because much of the material is also found in a section of Jesus’ teachings found in the Gospel of Matthew. In the Gospel of Luke, these teachings are known as the Sermon on the Plain. In the Gospel of Matthew, these teachings are known as the Sermon on the Mount. Regardless of the terrain, Jesus offers us great lessons for living!
Let’s look at just a few of the teachings we find in this Sermon on the Plain. First, Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Wow! That is a tough one! We might think it would have been easier if Jesus had said, “Like your enemies,” but in fact had Jesus said that it would have been much more difficult. It is easier to “to love our enemies,” but hate what they have done to hurt or offend us. We don’t have to like them, but Jesus calls us to love them. Loving them is so much easier than hating them because when hatred fills our hearts, it takes a great toll on us … physically and psychologically, not to mention spiritually.
Second, Jesus says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” This teaching challenges us again to show love to those who mistreat us. Jesus tells us, “Bless those who curse you ….” You and I freely admit that when someone speaks to us in that manner we are sorely tempted to respond in kind. It demands our restraint to speak a good word to them rather than to let them have it as good as they gave it. Jesus bids us, “Pray for those who abuse you.” We feel that Jesus is asking so much of us. Then we may review our lives and find that we have sinned by mistreating others and so we are just as guilty as those who have mistreated us. We are to lift up in prayer those who have abused us. Suddenly we find ourselves living on a level playing field. We, as those who have been abused, are to pray for our abusers and as those who have abused others they are to pray for us who have victimized them
Last, Jesus says, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also ….” In all of these lessons for living, Jesus bids us to live not by reciprocating behaviors, but by responding in the ways that are totally different from what our enemies would be expecting. They would expect us to respond by cursing, abusing, and striking back. A fight may be started by throwing the first punch, but it will not continue unless the one first struck responds by throwing a punch in return. True, the aggressor may continue to pummel the other person for a while, but it is not a fight, but a beating. Jesus calls us to do our part by putting an end to the fighting by loving our enemies, blessing those who curse you, praying for those who abuse you, and turning the other cheek to those who strike you.
O God, You call us to a “Higher” way of living by responding to those who hurt and offend us in ways that they are not expecting. Give us strength to do what You ask and to help us realize our role in the world as peacemakers. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.